CYBERSECURITY is on track to double its current 6,000 Irish jobs total to 12,000 by 2030, says Donna O’Shea, the newly appointed chair of cybersecurity in CIT.
Head of CIT’s Department of Computer Science, Prof O’Shea says Ireland is ideally positioned to compete for its share of the 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs predicted to be created globally by the end of 2021 (cybersecurity jobs figures according to research by Cybersecurity Ventures).
A recent survey by recruitment firm Indeed cited Amazon, KPMG, Forcepoint, Salesforce and Fidelity Investments as leaders in creating new cybersecurity roles. The key vacancies were for IT security specialists and security engineers, as well as IT auditors, security analysts and informational security analysts.
The Government has invested heavily in cybersecurity, as have companies like Intel, Dell, EMC and IBM. The sector’s strongest hubs are in Cork, Dublin and Galway.
CIT, of course, is home to Cyber Ireland, the national representative body for the sector, promoting its interests domestically and its reputation globally. Of course, as the diverse list of companies investing in cybersecurity in Ireland shows, this is a field which traverses virtually every industry.
Now, as chair of cybersecurity in CIT, Donna O’Shea has a critical role to play in how the sector will progress in the coming years. The new role is an initiative of the Higher Education Authority (HEA), created as part of the Senior Academic Leadership Initiative (SALI).
“I am delighted to be appointed to this professorship role,” she said. “As this is a research position, this is a nationally-funded position and I am looking to make a national impact.
“As well as supporting the development of students’ skills, I will be working with other third-level colleges, research institutions and with industry to ensure that Ireland is competing globally as an attractive base for investment. We are very well placed to address the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”
Globally, cybersecurity will be valued at $250bn within five years, evolving to tackle the $600bn which high tech crime is costing companies around the world.
In Ireland, people emerging from college with relevant skills are being snapped up. Graduates of CIT’s degree, masters and post-graduate programmes are highly sought after.
One key issue in building Ireland’s future talent pool will be drawing women to the sector. As the southern region’s first ever female Head of Department of Computer Science, Prof O’Shea has already been very active in helping to address gender and inclusion.
“We need to address the critical shortage of females in senior research positions,” she said. “I am glad to be working with the Higher Education Authority on this issue. CIT has worked with [pharma and IT group] McKesson to offer an innovative new PhD scholarship in Computer Science, in partnership with the SFI Centre for Research Training in Advanced Networks and Sustainable Societies (ADVANCE).”
The McKesson PhD Scholarship is the first of its kind in the country and is specifically designed to prepare women for leadership and senior technical roles in the industry.
Prof O’Shea is also co-principal investigator at the SFI research centre CONFIRM, funded investigator at the Science Foundation Ireland research centre CONNECT and ENABLE and group lead of Ríomh Intelligent Secure Systems research group and member of Nimbus Research Centre.
“What we are finding is that a lot of women are leaving the ICT sector within a few years,” she said. “Women are twice as likely to drop out of the fields of computers, science and engineering. This is unique to these fields. This is largely due to career stagnation.” Prof O’Shea’s research expertise lies in the area of enterprise security (i.e. SDN and NFV security) and network and service management with a specific focus on the design, analysis and optimisation of wired and wireless communication systems, networks and services.
During her PhD she made a significant contribution in the area of service provisioning for Beyond 3rd Generation (B3G) networks. She then spent five years working for IBM, working with large, complex systems across several sites, multiple design teams and various target platforms.
Prof O’Shea’s work in IBM also deepened her technical knowledge in the area of network and service management for mobile and cloud-based services.
She has been a key figure in establishing Cyber Ireland, the IDA-funded national cybersecurity cluster based in CIT. She is also a director of IT@Cork, which represents the interests of the IT industry in Cork. She is chair of the Computing Department’s research studies committee and is a committee member of IEEE UK Ireland Women in Engineering and is an IEEE senior member.
“Ireland has a lot of data centres. The country houses around 30% of Europe’s total data. These are so many businesses whose data needs to be protected. As a nation, we need to continue to be seen as secure.
“According to the latest ‘Security the Future 2020 global report, around 66% of the world’s IT decision-makers plan to make an investment in cybersecurity in the year ahead. Of the Irish CEOs responding to the global CEO Report 2020, over 78% said that they saw cybersecurity as a major risk to their growth. The greatest global demands for cybersecurity professionals are in Ireland and the USA. The greatest clusters for the sector are in Cork and Dublin, and CIT is playing a vital role at the centre of this growth.”
CIT was among the country’s first colleges to invest in cybersecurity. It has offered an MSC in Cybersecurity for the past 20 years. Working closely with industry, CIT has continued to expand its programmes in line with changing industry needs.
“We have invested €0.5m in our post-graduate diploma in Cybersecurity Management,” she said. “We worked with Johnson Controls and others, who told us that they wanted this risk to be properly represented at board level.”
Prof O’Shea’s hope for the future is that more women pursue careers in computer science and engineering.
“Increased participation from females is the only way that we ensure that our voices are being heard in policy and technology solutions which will influence our society for decades to come,” she said.