With two jobs available for each qualified candidate and 1 million positions still open, cybersecurity companies are starting to get desperate. The nonprofit Information Systems Audit and Control Association predicts that the global shortage of cybersecurity professionals will grow to 2 million by 2019.

Yet military service members with cybersecurity experience often have a hard time finding jobs that require their sought-after skills.

This spurred U.S. Air Force veteran Nigel LeBlanc to create the Cyber Warrior Network (CWN) in July 2015 after he discovered the need to decipher military members’ cybersecurity experience and skills in order to match them with civilian employers looking for cyber experts. The network is the first cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) cyber recruitment and talent management platform that connects businesses with the best suited matches in the security clearance-holding cyber talent pool.

With 17 years of service in the Air Force, LeBlanc moved back to San Antonio in 2015 to run CWN out of Geekdom. The startup of six employees also has close ties to the cybersecurity incubator Build Sec Foundry.

In 2014, during his first week on the job as a cyber veteran program manager for the State of Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development, LeBlanc was deluged with calls and emails from cyber veterans having trouble finding cyber jobs, as well as employers “asking where all the cyber experienced veterans were.”

“I went back to employers to ask them why they were not hiring these veterans,” LeBlanc said. “Digging deeper, I discovered civilians had trouble understanding military cyber experience.

“That’s how I developed the idea for CWN, as the means to match up the goals of these two different groups of people.”

What differentiates CWN is its human analytics career-matching software that leverages machine learning to translate military job codes and skill sets into cyber job skills that are easily understandable by the civilian workforce. This translation of specific military cyber language and references is crucial. Factor in the highly classified nature of most veterans’ work in the defense cybersecurity sector and civilian hiring professionals often cannot appreciate what the veteran has to offer.

“One of the main challenges is that military members do certain jobs without the specific certifications or education often required in the private sector,” LeBlanc said. “Our platform pulls behavioral, performance, personal, and professional data from candidates, and our algorithm matches the best candidates to cyber jobs.”

CWN works with each service member to create a “cyber dossier” that contains the sum of his/her military experience, skills, certifications, education, and clearance levels into a workforce analysis that helps civilian companies make informed hiring decisions. The artificial intelligence that powers CWN’s algorithm is continually “learning,” improving its precision every time a hiring match is made.

“Our goal is to de-risk a cybersecurity company’s new hire,” LeBlanc said. “We translate their military experience into terms understandable by the civilian cyber market.”

LeBlanc has developed a patent-pending machine learning algorithm that “learns” about potential cyber job candidates and the employers looking for specific types of cyber hires. By analyzing hiring trends, CWN’s software will be able to provide the best matches in real time and identify specific cyber workforce gaps. Over time, the machine learning software hones its predictive analytics to forecast hiring trends and identify how to best meet emerging talent gaps.

CWN’s software can also forecast the cyber talent joining the civilian workforce and prepare those candidates before they transition from active duty. This proactive approach is radically different from the reactive model most staff companies use.

A Patriot Boot Camp graduate from the inaugural Washington D.C. cohort in 2012, LeBlanc has participated in almost all cohorts since the first one. Graduating from the Bunker Labs Austin fall cohort in 2016, LeBlanc was most recently a finalist in the South by Southwest (SXSW) cyber accelerator pitch event in March 2017. He lives and breathes startup operations, yet is looking to scale up CWN on a national level.

“While we’re focused on San Antonio, we have deep relationships in cybersecurity hotspots across the country, such as the greater Washington D.C. area, San Diego, Hawaii, and Seattle,” LeBlanc said.

When asked what advice to give transitioning service members or veterans looking for cyber jobs, LeBlanc outlined the top skills employees need.

“Most employers are looking for employees with skills in intrusion detection, [who are] knowledgeable in secure software development, and/or skilled at cyberattack mitigation,” he said. “I’d also advise people to be proactive and be sure to understand the educational requirements for certifications. Create relationships with existing employers long before you transition out of the military.”

With the gap in qualified cybersecurity professionals growing, LeBlanc is motivated to help address that gap using CWN to reach out to service members.

“Our mission is to help veterans launch cybersecurity careers while simultaneously improving the security of our nation’s economic and critical infrastructure,” LeBlanc said. “We want to be part of the solution.”

Iris Gonzalez

Iris Gonzalez writes about technology, life science, and veteran affairs. She won the Texas Veterans Commission Media Excellence Awards for her 2016 Veterans Day story "Life as a Veteran: What Veterans...