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DoD Cyber Scholars—Past and Present—Share Advice on Education and Careers

Alex Kasten
By Alex Kasten
  • News |
  • Cybersecurity

Enoch Osei and Charles Kolawole, current and former Department of Defense Cyber Scholars at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), share roots in West Africa.

Both Osei and Kolawole overcame language and financial hurdles to get to where they are today, with careers in cybersecurity.

Determination and resilience marked their journeys. They agreed to share their thoughts on early education and career advancement. 

Enoch Osei

With roots in Ghana, Osei, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Computer Networks and Cybersecurity at UMGC, balances his work as a community support specialist with his studies. In the community, he aims to improve the quality of life of individuals, especially those in vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. His personal values of compassion and social justice fuel his professional journey.

Osei believes that closing the employment gap in cybersecurity, especially as it relates to underrepresented minorities, begins with early education.

“Introducing children to technology through practical and engaging means can expose them to careers and spark an enduring interest,” he said.

With that in mind, he points to the pivotal role played by the first influencers: parents.

“The aspirational narratives we present to our children need to be broadened to include success stories from diverse fields, including technology,” said Osei. “Establishing community IT centers and promoting STEM education as a viable path to success can play a crucial role in changing these perceptions for our children and opening up new avenues for minority participation in cybersecurity and other tech fields in the future.”

For Osei, the Department of Defense Cyber Scholar program has been a cornerstone in his professional development. Beyond the monetary assistance provided by the program, Osei has gained access to a network of professionals, mentors and resources that have helped his growth.

“It has propelled me into branches of cybersecurity I might not have reached otherwise, allowing me to explore complex issues like cybersecurity laws, risk assessments and network protection with a deep understanding,” he said. 

Charles Kolawole

Born and raised in Nigeria, West Africa, Charles Kolawole, who received his MSc in Digital Forensics & Cyber Investigation from UMGC in 2018, was 34 years old before he was exposed to a personal computer.

“I fell in love with the computer as soon as I turned it on for the first time,” he said.

As someone who came to technology and cybersecurity later in life, it seems improbable that he now serves as an information assurance/cyber information systems manager with the U.S. Department of Defense.

To get to where he is today, Kolawole drew upon many resources that are available to everyone, including from within.  

“Self-motivation propelled me to research and study hard to surpass expectations,” he said. “Never tire of learning and relearning.”  

In addition, Kolawole encouraged people to take advantage of training resources available to them and to make themselves available and useful.

“I studied and got the certifications needed for my job earlier than scheduled,” he said. “I learned not to wait till the last minute to get necessary things done.”

Kolawole sees a bright future for early STEM education which, in turn, will help train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

“I see the opportunity pathways getting wider,” he said. “Middle schools offer opportunities to attend boot camps, internship opportunities are available from intelligence communities to encourage STEM scholars, and mentors are available for those who are interested.

“I encourage anyone to consider a federal government job, which has offered me both security and satisfaction,” he added.

The Department of Defense Cybersecurity Scholarship Program is administered and supported at UMGC by Dr. Loyce Pailen, senior director of the Center for Security Studies, and Jennifer Hull, academic program coordinator in the School of Cybersecurity and Information Technology. The program pays tuition and stipends to the scholarship recipients selected by the Department of Defense for employment upon graduation.