Steam Plant Tour

I accompanied our students on a tour of the University steam plant. The plant creates the steam used to heat the buildings on campus. It was a great tour — one of several our students take during their time with us.

Because it is a boiler, with fantastic explosive potential, it is built with thick walls and a thin roof — to explode up — rather than out — limiting potential loss of life. Tour guide/operator waits till students are standing right next to the boiler to tell them that!

From the control room the operators have a view of the key pressures. Cold city water in, steam out.

HMI display of the boiler. Automated control happens in this enclosure. If anything goes wrong, close off natural gas valve in, and open valve for incoming water. Operator advice: “You can look at the panel, please don’t bump it though.”

Softener system. Don’t run out of salt. Manual pH measurement station.

We use radio tour-guide head sets — very helpful in noisy environments. Great instructor. Awesome students.

Whatcha readin?

So, I’ve been reading and listening quite a bit lately. A while ago, a friend of mine sent me a copy of “The Great Game” by Peter Hopkirk. Very engaging, and certainly on point given the recent US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The book is named after a core idea in Kipling’s “Kim” — a book about a young anglo-Indian boy who becomes a spy. So, midway through “The Great Game” I decided to pause while I took up “Kim”. For anyone interested in spycraft, Kim is a fun read/listen (and it is a book where voice talent makes a big difference!).

Kipling – 1891

I was most impressed with Kipling’s effort (ability) to represent the perspectives and manners of cultures, ages, and gender. I love that aspect of “intelligence” — though I don’t always love how it is applied by intelligence services.

I also appreciate the deeper messages of the unity of mankind and duty to God that generally pervade Kipling’s work.

And, I found a couple of teaching-related treasures in “Kim”:

The first is a scene where Mahabub Ali, a horse-trader and spy, criticizes the madrasa — the school — where Kim is receiving his formal education. He says “Son, I am weary of that madrasa, where they take the best years of a man to teach him what he can only learn on the road. The folly of the sahibs has neither top nor bottom. And God, he knows, we need men more and more in the game”.

I couldn’t help but feel a little bit the same way about my own formal education. I wish it had a stronger applied focus. My favorite experiences occurred where I was applying my learning to my concurrent employment. And we do need men and women more and more in protecting our critical infrastructure systems. We need to prepare them efficiently and effectively.

The second is a scene where Kim and another young man are learning to expand their powers of observation. They are shown a tray of curiosities for a few seconds, and then told to describe the items on the tray, which they can no longer see. At first, Kim’s performance lags far behind a younger boy, but he learns to increase his power of observation.

I couldn’t help but agree wholeheartedly with the importance of quickly committing key information to memory, careful attention to detail, and the value of relevant practice. These can be reinforced by making the exercise a friendly contest — gamification.

Industrial Cybersecurity Workforce Development Community of Practice

In August of 2020, we got together with our friends from the INL for a brainstorming session at ESTEC in Pocatello. We asked ourselves, “What could we do together, that would help us get participation and raise visibility for industrial cybersecurity education?”

We decided to launch a virtual workshop — low cost — low risk — high potential payoff. We invited some great people in government and academia, and held a day-long workshop. Over 100 people attended.

To keep the momentum going, we decided to name it the “Industrial Cybersecurity Workforce Development Community of Practice” or ICSCOP for short. We divided into subgroups. We held monthly meetings. We did additional workshops in May and November 2021. Participants from all over the country have attended the meetings. ISA has been a strong supporter. NIST NICE leadership has also been a significant collaborator as they try to add ICS coverage into the NICE framework. Based on joint interests, Ida Ngambeki of Purdue and I wrote a paper together for the CISSE conference.

We are excited about the future. Check out this great article about the ICSCOP that ran in the NICE winter e-newsletter:

Resume preparation for industrial cybersecurity students

So, students in our professional development and certification class have been preparing their resumes. For students without much professional experience, this is significant challenge.

Fortunately, our Industrial Cybersecurity students have a lot of learning experiences to draw from. I provide them with a prototype resume that includes statements of things they have done during the program. They can select and tailor statements to their projects and interests, and to closely match the job description and requirements.

I try to put them in the mind-set of the HR lead and the hiring manager.

I explain that HR lead is the “pre-screener” — eliminating those who are obviously not qualified. The hiring manager will then sort the resumes into yes and no piles. In some cases this is a diligent process. In some cases, its a “feel” thing. In some cases this is a committee decision.

“Yes” pile resumes will qualify for a cover letter read, if cover letters are part of the process. Some organizations will administer a test of sorts. Based on the results, three to five candidates will be chosen for an interview. Two candidates will be called back for a second interview.

I think the most effective way to put students in the mindset of the HR lead and hiring manager is to expose them to a bunch of resumes. So, I have students bring several copies of their resume, which they share with classmates (I ask them to remove their names so that they don’t get distracted by that point).

Then we do a drill where students take five seconds to consume each resume and make a mental “yes” or “no” decision. While five seconds may be sightly on the short side, it gets the point across.