For many high schoolers, Saturday mornings are a time to sleep in after a jam-packed week of school, part-time jobs and extracurricular activities. But for a group of aspiring technology innovators, this was prime time for learning the skills needed to prepare for a future career in cybersecurity.
Angela Williams, Blue Cross Enterprise Information Security Director, engaging DAPCEP students during the "Hack Attack" program. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan opened its doors to 30 Detroit high school students for the “Hack Attack: Exploring Cybersecurity and Career Trends of Tomorrow” series, held each Saturday October 5 through November 2. This interactive five-week event, hosted in partnership with the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP), exposed students to how STEM careers integrate with the health care industry through fun, educational activities. “We have an opportunity to share how exciting a career in cybersecurity can be with the next generation of IT leaders,” says Angela Williams, Blue Cross Enterprise Information Security Director. “It’s a two-way conversation – we get insight into what piques their interest and they see first-hand what real-world careers in IT look like. When you’re in high school, you may not know exactly what you want to do, so programs like Hack Attack gives students a true leg up.” DAPCEP is a nonprofit organization with nearly 40 years of experience partnering with universities, training programs, and K-12 school systems to connect youth to the best science, technology, engineering, medicine and math (STEM) educational experiences in Michigan. Each “Hack Attack” session was led by BCBSM employees from IT, Actuarial, Underwriting, Business Efficiency/Continuous Improvement, Operations and other divisions on how STEM and cybersecurity interfaces with their business areas. Blue Cross Information Security Assurance Manager Shirley Meeks and a DAPCEP participant share information during the "Hack Attack" program. Blue Cross Information Security Assurance Manager Shirley Meeks says she was excited to participate and help build the pipeline of talent in the IT industry, especially considering there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions by 2021. “When I heard about it, I instantly thought about my nephew who expressed an interest in cybersecurity, a sizable, well-paying field,” says Meeks. “I knew this program would be an excellent opportunity to stimulate young people like him who want to learn more about careers in the industry.” Renaissance High School senior, and lifelong DAPCEP student, Kyle Perry’s excitement about his future in tech grew as a “Hack Attack” participant. Perry has been involved in DAPCEP since kindergarten. “This program has given me great insight into the IT field and cybersecurity, which happens to be the path I want to pursue,” says Perry. “Hack Attack is giving me a great outlook and is growing my anticipation about getting started!” In the end, it’s all about community impact and making meaningful connections. Blue Cross’ partnership with DAPCEP provides an opportunity for employees to become mentors to students in the communities they serve. “Blue Cross has a strong social mission,” says Williams. “We’re proud to be able to merge the health care and health care tech worlds together to showcase what we do with future IT leaders.” Learn more about Blue Cross IT's community impact by visiting these MI Blues Perspectives blogs: