Today, SynED, a national non-profit organization that identifies emerging best practices for effective articulation between employers, job seekers, and education providers, announced that Henry Hua was selected as its national Cyber Hero for June 2021.
Hua is the Dean of Business and Computer Information Systems at Cypress College, a part of the California Community Colleges system. His passion for cybersecurity education and focus on building relationships with local employers is resulting in a pipeline of employment for community college students, opening doors to high-paying careers in the red-hot cybersecurity labor market.
Cypress College serves students from under-represented and low-income communities that might not always think about cybersecurity as a career path that’s available to them. One of Hua’s goals is to give them the confidence they need to see themselves in the field and acquire the skills it takes to get there.
“What we’re trying to do is have everybody understand that they bring value and how to express that value to potential employers,” Hua said. “We want our students to know that they’re coming into the profession and coming into a career, not just taking a few classes here and there.”
Steve Tran, CISO at MGM Studios, said Hua and his team at Cypress are very receptive and responsive to industry needs and want to do everything they can to make sure that students are set up to be successful from day one on the job.
“Cybersecurity is a complex, broad, and diverse field. Henry’s pragmatic approach to the program is effective because he listens to the needs of the industry and the students to build a program that precisely meets their needs and demands,” Tran said. “Most importantly, he cares about creating opportunities and lowering barriers to address the cybersecurity talent shortage.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day trends and the excitement of launching new programs, but Hua sees his work as something that serves a much bigger purpose.
“I always tell my team that we’re here to change a generation, not to do something new that’s fly by night,” Hua said. “That mantra of changing a generation has always been something that we’ve carved into the work that we do.”
Brandon Nguyen was a student in Cypress College’s cybersecurity program and now serves as one of its mentors while he pursues a bachelor’s degree from UC Irvine. He’s worked with Hua since 2017 and considers him to be a valued mentor.
“Henry always has high goals for our program, but they only make the program better for our students and our partners,” Nguyen said. “He is always on the lookout for projects, competitions, equipment, and resources that our students can use to increase their learning. He also seeks to partner with other institutions and industry to collaborate with them and strengthen cyber education community.”
Hua became interested in cybersecurity while working as a data quality analyst for the North Orange County Community College District and earned a master’s degree in information assurance from Cal Poly Pomona.
He saw the educational opportunity in the field when he began serving as Dean of Mathematics, Business, and Computer Technology at San Bernardino Valley College. Things picked up steam when he arrived at Cypress College in 2017 and met cybersecurity instructor Ben Izadi.
“We have a lot of opportunities in this space, especially in Orange County, right? It’s kind of a hot topic, and there are a lot of companies out here,” Hua said. “Ben and I just started to discuss what it is that we wanted to do and what our vision was for the program, and that snowballed into what we have today.”
Cypress College offers an associate degree in cyber defense, as well as a cybersecurity certificate and a dual enrollment program that serves more than 1,000 K-12 students. It also has a robust CyberPatriot program that allows more than 400 high school and community college students to participate in the national competition.
Along with these cybersecurity-specific initiatives, Hua is also working to make cybersecurity part of the other disciplines within the Business & CIS department. He wants the college’s students to graduate with a “Swiss army knife” mentality that will allow them to bring together various skills and experiences and stay nimble as industries continue to change.
“There isn’t a business that doesn’t need cyber. And without cyber, there is no business,” Hua said. “We’re trying to have students understand that this is a very dynamic relationship that allows people to work together in very different spaces that are closer than they think.”
Izadi said the cybersecurity program has grown drastically in a short period of time thanks to Hua’s vision and leadership. Cypress is one of three colleges in California to receive their CAE2Y (Center of Academic Excellence 2-Year) designation by the U.S. National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.
“Before I met Henry in 2017, our Cybersecurity program had only a handful of students and we barely had any engagement with the middle school and high school students,” Izadi said. “In less than four years, through Henry’s leadership and dedication, we have transformed our program into one that is nationally recognized.”