How has mentoring students in a Cyber security course helped me improve my own knowledge and skills ?
If you want to understand an area well the best way is to learn and apply the learnings. Even better is to teach the subject to others in the field. After spending nearly two years in the CISO role and interviewing multiple candidates for InfoSec positions I found that most candidates have the knowledge but are not able to apply the same in a real life situation. As a senior professional it is important that we share our learning to the young generation by both teaching and mentoring new candidates in this field.
In summer of 2020 I started searching for opportunities to teach online and discovered the website of Great Learning which had a course on Cyber Security taught by Stanford professors. Coincidentally I had just started a six month course on Cloud Computing from the same platform. This gave me student’s perspective of what we look from a mentor as well. The Great Learning courses follow a blended learning model wherein the students are provided a online training videos and also get a mentored learning session for clearing their doubts and getting industry insights about the particular area being taught.
After having mentored several courses over the last year and a half my key learnings have been
- It is essential to know how the skill is applied in real life in various contexts without which all technical knowledge is useless.
- Specific examples of cyber security incidents and how fundamental knowledge helps is very useful in driving the learnings.
- Interacting with professionals in cyber security space by attending conferences and events is a useful perspective to get more insight into the subject
- Doing short courses for specific skills are useful to demonstrate competence in a particular field.
Key points which a mentor should keep in mind while teaching
- Focus primarily on the specific topic for which the mentoring session is
- Cover the subject in a measured pace — neither too fast neither too slow.
- Try to make it interactive by including exercises and asking questions
- Encourage and reward participation and interaction
- Prepare well with examples, exercises, industry perspectives and real use cases.
Key points for students to gain from a mentored session
- Do not expect a revision of the online videos — Study them before the session
- Do ask for real life and industry perspectives
- Share your expectations and gain from the mentor’s knowledge and experience
- Participate actively — preferably on audio rather than on chat alone
- Do not ask how this course will get you a job — Instead ask how can the course aid you in journey towards and InfoSec role and what else can you do to move forward in that journey — courses, certifications , internship and volunteering opportunities
I hope this short blog is helpful to both teachers and students to benefit from online blended courses and the time they devote to these sessions.