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October 16, 2017
Woman in Cyber Educating Youth in Technology: Lana Yager
October 16, 2017
Lana Yager has over 20 years in the IT field. She became a Nebraska Certified teacher, teaching English as a Second Language and Computer Science. In 2015, Lana was awarded as the AIM for Brilliance Tech Educator and won the Teacher of the Year for the National Center for Women in IT Aspirations in Computing for Nebraska/SW Iowa for 2017 as a result of her innovative approach to teaching, as well as her work with youth and technology. After retiring this year from teaching at Omaha South High School, Lana is continuing her passion to introduce people of all ages to technology throughout the Omaha community as the new Tech Instructor and Career Coach for the Brain Exchange youth initiative of the AIM Institute. Seeing someone smile after trying something completely new or challenging is one of Lana’s greatest joys!I was lucky enough to be contacted by Lana and in our conversations learned more about her interesting IT background, which I felt was worth sharing with my fellow Cybrarians. As many of you know, this month Cybrary is celebrating National Cyber Security Awareness Month and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in a special way. It is my hope to spread the word about incredible women in the industry who are making a difference, like Lana.Being a woman who is new to the cyber security industry, I have recognized the importance of having dedicated and understanding teachers who are able to make complicated topics more simplified, more relatable, and who most importantly, inspire their students to learn more. Lana is the epitome of an educator who strives to be this resource for her students."My favorite aspect of teaching cybersecurity is introducing young people to such an exciting career!," says Lana, " I love having professionals from the field come share their stories with my students or being able to lead debates on various events or issues in the news (such as the Apple issue out of San Bernadino last year and a debate over privacy rights while also making sure everyone is safe.)"What draws you to the cyber security industry?I spent over 20 years in IT before becoming a school teacher. In a meeting with the University of Nebraska at Omaha, they told us that although the school that I taught has many students graduate and attend UNO, they’ve never had a student go to UNO to study computer science. I shared with them my background and as a result, they accepted me as an Adjunct faculty member at UNO. Immediately, we began revamping their syllabus for their Information Assurance course so I could teach it as a dual-credit class in high school.I was also chosen to attend the University of New Orleans GenCyber teacher camp that summer for two weeks to get a better understanding of cybersecurity principles and methods. I taught cybersecurity for three years as a dual-credit class at an urban high school with a student-body of more than 90% of the students living below the poverty line, many of whom were immigrants to the United States. Even more exciting, a number of girls took my class or joined my CyberPatriots competition teams.Have any of your students continued on to pursue cyber security? I have a former student who I mentor who is in her second-year as a cyber security intern at Northrop Grumman in Bellevue, Nebraska. She is studying computer science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Her first interaction to cyber security which led her to pursue it as a career was my class in high school, competing in CyberPatriots, and working with Northrop Grumman engineers who helped with Omaha South High School's after-school tech club.In your opinion, why do you think more woman should consider a career in cyber? The options are endless and the pay is excellent! What really matters is what you know and skills you bring to the table. Plus, is it such an exciting field to get to work in where you can do something that really can have a positive impact on creating a better world.What has your experience working in the IT field been like? Introducing PCs and computer networks in a corporate world of mainly men who wanted to protect their legacy systems was challenging. The thing that I appreciate about working in an IT field though, is that you can build a reputation by honing your skills to be the best. People respect you for what you bring to the table rather than your ethnicity or your sex. Two women who work for the FBI help teach my students (one is a special agent and one an ops specialist). I have no trouble thinking they both hold their own and get along just fine as women in cybersecurity!Can you share the biggest ah-a! moment in your career?One of the first was when attending the FIRST Novel network 1.0 training sessions back in the 80’s after setting up my first network.Who has a mentor who influenced you during your studies/ career?My brother, Larry. He has always been my ‘cheerleader’ and advisor for how to play ball with the boys or to help encourage me when things seemed too hard. He's also always been my 'truth-teller,' telling me what I needed to hear rather than just what I wanted to hear. I was a single mother raising two children while working fulltime and going to school part-time -we all need someone in our corner!How have you been a mentor helping more women get involved in cyber security? In the past when teaching, I personally recruited teenage girls. I actually had a dedicated computer programming class just for high school girls. I co-founded the first branch of Girls Who Code in Omaha in 2016. After retiring from teaching, I began (and recently went to work for) a non-profit company, AIM Institute where our mission is to build the Midwest’s IT talent pipeline. I work on creating the curriculum and building programs for youth and underserved adults to engage them in technology and help prepare them for careers in IT.Currently, I'm working on a grant for two GenCyber camps for two levels of Girl Scouts in July 2018, working specifically with the Girl Scouts of Nebraska organization. GS is rolling out 18 cyber-specific badges in 2018 and I am helping girls earn those badges through this camp. I’m also going to be teaching Intro to Web Design for the Youthbuild program for Goodwill and will be teaching single-parents web development later this winter.
I do all that I can to get young women into IT.What materials are useful for you when teaching IT or cyber topics? I have a ton of great resources for all levels of kids and young adults, including more in-depth resources. The biggest challenge to teachers is having a lab environment setup to actually have hands-on activities working with networks, files, etc. That’s why I was so excited to see Cybrary has that available! It’s very hard to really teach cybersecurity without a good lab. I’ve used virtual machines in my class but schools still get nervous about that. Having on online lab is absolutely PERFECT!!!! Thank you!Do you have any general advice for women in the industry? Do it- Go after your dreams and work hard! Find an area that you can be passionate about and learn all you can to work in that area. Along the way, pay it forward by giving others a boost up whenever the opportunity comes along.What are your plans for the future? I hope to actually have time to earn a certification to gain a higher-level of knowledge. I'd one day love to help prevent sex trafficking and white-collar crime. I work with a high population of immigrant girls from South and Central America and from Thailand in a state that I-80 runs directly through, so sex trafficking is a major issue.Hearing about Lana's work, I hope you better understand the importance of cyber security learning and are inspired to help the youth learn critical IT and cyber security skills. If you would like to share your story as a woman in cyber, or know someone who does, please leave a comment.We also encourage you to share your knowledge by teaching a course on Cybrary. You can submit yours here.Olivia Lynch (@Cybrary_Olivia) is the Marketing Manager at Cybrary. Like many of you, she is just getting her toes wet in the infosec field and is working to make cyber security news more interesting. A firm believer that the pen is mightier than the sword, Olivia considers corny puns and an honest voice essential to any worthwhile blog.