(ISC)² Chapter Creates Space for Entry-Level Members and Professional Connections

[ This article was originally published here ]

MEM-Chapter-Program-Logo-Tagline-Stacked (1)(ISC)² currently supports more than 150 chapter groups in 50 countries with 32,000 members and growing. Chapter membership is open to all aspiring and current cybersecurity professionals encouraging connections on a local level. In joining an (ISC)² Chapter, you will find opportunities for mentorship, leadership roles, volunteer days, study groups and more. 

This year, the (ISC)² New Jersey Chapter has seen rapid growth through various recruitment efforts and word of mouth has made a stand-out mark within their geographical area, by increasing their membership by 400% within a year. The chapter has coordinated many successful meetings, generating deeper relationships and insightful conversations. They are encouraging youth to join the field by providing students with a free membership, helping local schools start their own chapters and providing mentors to local and even international schools. Chapter president Ken Fishkin, CISSP was recently a featured co-host on the cybersecurity podcast Down the Security Rabbithole and had members ask the questions to the show’s guest. The group has no plans to slow down. They are hosting a joint meeting soon with IAPP to bring privacy and cyber professionals together, formalizing a personalized mentorship program, starting a CCSP study group, providing a heavily discounted CISSP training class and a resume workshop.

We caught up with Ken to discuss the impact and learn more about their upcoming events. Ken has more than 20 years of experience implementing and supporting secure, complex information technology infrastructures. Currently, he leads Lowenstein Sandler's information security and data privacy programs mitigating their security and privacy risks to comply with client and regulatory requirements.

How has your chapter maintained and grown membership through an ongoing pandemic?

We were not only able to maintain our membership, but we had tremendous growth by adding more initiatives into our existing offerings, such as our public speaking workshop, study groups, a virtual conference, networking opportunities and mentoring initiatives. Volunteerism also plays a huge part in retention. The more invested a member feels about the organization, the more likely they will continue to be active. I always encourage all of the members to be active. We started to use LinkedIn to recruit new members in the area, developed a monthly newsletter and offered free attendance to our monthly meetings for several months. During that time, it was fairly easy to get great speakers, since no one was traveling.

How does your membership connect and engage with one another?

We have virtual and in-person social events, such as picnics and virtual networking events on a platform that allows members to explore virtual rooms to meet other members. We plan to host a holiday dinner in December and more picnics in the spring and a virtual/physical conference in May. We also booked a community service event with a local food bank in April.

Have you had any success building mentor/mentee relationships?

Yes, we have a new program that has really taken off. Our Jumpstart Mentoring Program (JuMP), had mentees meet different mentors every two weeks over several months. Now, we are having the mentees spend more time with their mentors, but we continue rotating them monthly so that the mentees are exposed to different mentors over five months. 

Why, in your opinion, are (ISC)² Chapters important?

These chapters are invaluable because people need a community of like-minded professionals where they can share their challenges and successes. There are currently too many webinars/conferences where you are just being given information and not enough places for people to have intelligent conversations with people they know and trust. So many positive things can come from these types of organizations because members form solid relationships with each other. I have witnessed many times where members have connected for job seeking opportunities, trying to solve a problem at work or needing to hire a professional who had a particular skill set. We had a session recently, where the younger members were discussing the challenges they had because of a lack of experience and the more senior members discussed the realities of ageism. These types of conversations are priceless and can only be conducted effectively when a high level of trust has been established.

How do you help your members with learning soft skills?

We have a monthly public speaking workshop, we have conducted sessions on conflict resolution, we learned how to make a brand for ourselves and we have members writing articles for our monthly newsletter. We also encourage our members to be guest speakers or on a panel at our monthly meetings.  

On top of the many engagement opportunities, (ISC)² Chapter members can earn CPE credits by participating in professional activities, co-sponsored events with other industry associations and speaking at industry events or writing articles for publication. Find your local chapter in the Chapter Directory and get started today. Don’t see a chapter in your area? Learn how you can start a chapter in your community. Open enrollment for new chapters begins on January 1, 2022.