Industry Insights: Joshua Selfe Project Ares

Industry Insights: Joshua Selfe Project Ares

Meredyth Grant

We are delighted to be kicking off 2022 by working in partnership with Project Ares. In this Industry Insights we catch up with Joshua Selfe, a former US Army soldier and now Cyber Education Leader with Project Ares.

How did you find yourself in the military?  

I did not come from a military family, nor did I believe a military career was in my future. Then, right after high school, 9-11 happened in the United States. The tragedy compelled me into joining the military.

I tried to join the Marine Corps. Their recruiting office was closed, but the Army’s was open. So, I enlisted with them. 

My parents and recruiter did not know I wanted to become an Infantry Soldier. It was not until after I swore the oath that I let them know what I had done. They were not happy when I joined, but we laugh about it now. They are very proud of my decision to join the Army.

What was the highlight of your military career?

Hands down, the best part of serving is the relationships. They are created under special circumstances that most people, who are not veterans, will never experience. I’ll carry those relationships with me for the rest of my life.  

Why did you leave the military?

My second combat deployment was rough on myself and my family. After that experience, I really wanted to move on to the next chapter of my life. That’s when I made the decision to look for a second career. 

What is Project Ares about?

Our mission is to bring the cybersecurity profession within reach for everyone.  One of the major barriers is access to hands-on experiences that help build true competencies. The Project Ares’ team is super passionate about tearing down this barrier while making education fun and engaging.    

What made you join Project Ares?

While working for the Department of Defense, I interviewed leaders in cybersecurity training. I wanted to understand the different approaches to incorporating hands-on learning into their training plans.  

During the interviews, the same challenges kept coming up:

  • Hard to maintain
  • Too expensive
  • Not enough funding
  • Labs were not relevant, much less hard to gain access to labs … etc.  

At this same time, Project Ares approached me. Their company mission inspired me. Most importantly, I truly believed in their approach to solving the challenges I observed. 

Where will you be in 5 years? 

As a veteran, I am driven by mission and purpose. The future is incredibly difficult to predict. However, I can tell you that I will be doing something I believe will change the world for the better.

What projects/areas of tech/cyber should the military and commercial sector be focusing on in the next 5 years?

The military and commercial sectors should focus on how to be effective in a world where co-location is no longer necessary. Telecommuting and virtual education are here to stay. 

The world was trending in this direction prior to COVID-19. Now, it has greatly accelerated. My belief is that the organizations that stop fighting this societal shift will be the ones who grow in the future.   

Throughout your life who would you say have been your main role models and why?

Role models abound! I have many for how I view finances, technology, education, political beliefs, and leadership. Although, my main role model is my wife. She is my life partner who has been, and continues to be, my main inspiration. She is an amazing person.

Do you or have you ever had a mentor? What did you learn from them?

From a young age, I have always valued and sought out mentorship. There are so many great people willing to pass on life experiences. 

I learned not to be afraid to ask questions! This is the best way to receive mentorship.  If you are fearless and insatiable in your curiosity, you will be surprised by how many people are willing to become your mentor. 

What mistakes have you made in your career? How have they shaped you for the better?

The military set me up with many leadership skills: project planning, systems thinking, discipline, etc. Where the military lacks are teaching different leadership styles. What works within the “Military Culture” is not always as effective within civilian workplace cultures.

Two great resources that may help other veterans are and Simon Sinek.

What transferable skills did you learn in the military? What is the one skill that sets you apart from your non-military peers in the commercial sector?

The top skills the military taught me were the importance of “team” and “tenacity”. Barriers are just something to go under, over, around, or through – if need be. However, the people around you are required to overcome those barriers.

What emerging technologies should we be keeping an eye on?

Keep your eyes on anything that improves virtual communication and collaboration.  Remote and hybrid work has really altered how organizations are able to innovate. While it does require a shift in culture, communication, and leveraging of technology, it will increase productivity when done well.

If you were to retrain now, what area of cyber/tech would you focus on developing skills in?

I would focus on cloud architecture patterns, cloud-native technologies, and cloud-based security. 

What more can the government do to encourage more veterans into cyber and tech training programmes and jobs?

I am a huge believer in the importance of programs dedicated to mental health and hygiene. Successful veteran transition is often a series of blockers you could quickly overcome with accessible and quality mental health and hygiene programs. So that would be my recommendation for all training programs regardless of the target industry. 

Why are service leavers well suited to cyber security and tech jobs?

Cybersecurity is a team-based, mission-driven profession. “Team” and “Mission” are two pillars every veteran has baked into their DNA.

Why do you think the ‘general public’ are so flippant about their data security?

The public has not come to terms with nor accepted their personal data as valuable.  We see this on social media and search platforms all the time. Until that paradigm shifts, I do not see people changing. There is plenty of educational material out there on this topic. People must start believing their data is a valuable commodity. They need to realize that the “free” products, in exchange for their information, that are out there are not worth the trade. 

My challenge to your readers:  If you find yourself in your living room talking to someone about something you want to buy and then soon after you start seeing ads in your feeds on that item.  Pause and reflect on how crazy that is and start to demand better privacy out of your apps.  Here is a fun article that I would recommend.  How I Fully Quit Google

How can we encourage everyday people to take better care of their cyber security?

We can encourage a steady drip of topics framed in a relatable and humorous way. For example, if Dave Chappelle did a stand-up Netflix show about all the ways people do not take cybersecurity seriously, we might start seeing people change their behavior voluntarily. 

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