Giving Calgary youth the upper hand during Cybersecurity Awareness Month

A young child enjoys learning at a computer.

For Stefan Herbst, the idea of life-long learning starts with the realization that answers to hard questions are out there to be found — you just have to be okay with getting your hands dirty.

“It’s okay to fail, it’s okay to get your hands dirty and look for answers because they’re out there. It’s part of the opportunity,” shares Herbst. “Don’t be afraid to jump into something even if you don’t feel fully equipped. You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Skills to build

This idea of continual learning has motivated Herbst throughout his career. After working for five years in the audio engineering industry, Herbst wanted to expand his technical skills and explored SAIT’s Network Engineering Technology program. On a campus visit, he was immediately grabbed by the hands-on experience he saw students having in labs and classrooms.

“I walked into a noisy room that had a bunch of computers in it, and everyone’s sitting there behind keyboards typing, and I thought, ‘They’re really getting into it and actually touching all this stuff!’” he remembers.

When he reflects on his time at SAIT, Herbst says a crucial component of his education were the skills he acquired as a student. He learned how to solve problems and navigate and understand new technologies, all of which helped him enter a new career in cybersecurity.

“When I left SAIT and got a job, it was instantly back to learning a second language, so to speak, on the specifics of technology,” he shares. “But I felt like I knew how to do this. I knew how to find answers to questions because there’s no shortage of ways to get those means.”

After several years working in systems implementation, then open consultancy, Herbst co-founded Advantus360 in 2015, a company that sets the standard of excellence in sustainable solutions to organizations looking for clarity on the right next step for their cybersecurity peace of mind.

Cybersecurity has become a public focus in recent years, especially with the shift to digital technology during to the pandemic. Herbst believes there needs to be continued dialogue around cybersecurity and an understanding of the ubiquity and rapid change of potential threats.

“All these problems are coming without many organizations seeing it,” he says. “We do need to catch up a bit and understand as a community all the interconnectedness and explosive growth. I think it's more important than ever to bring that conversation to the table to make it inclusive. I believe it's a misconception to think that technical problems solely require a technical solution.”

Broader conversations

As part of this broader conversation, SAIT is again participating in Cybersecurity Awareness Month this October, an internationally recognized campaign to help people learn more about the importance of cybersecurity. Through SAIT’s Digital Youth Programs, part of SAIT’s Youth Initiatives and in collaboration with the School for Advanced Digital Technology, middle and high school aged students across Calgary will have the chance to participate in several initiatives focused on cybersecurity for youth. One example, Cybersecurity: Art of the Possible, explores the fundamentals of cybersecurity and lets students participate in hands-on activities that test their digital footprint, explore encryption and decryption, and more.

When the opportunity to sponsor Cybersecurity Awareness Month came up, Herbst knew Advantus360 wanted to get involved.

“It was a win-win. We love the opportunity to share our story, especially with an audience that might be interested because they may be wondering about these topics,” he says.

As a father with two young children, Herbst also has a personal connection to the need for increased awareness among youth around cybersecurity. He also appreciates the hands-on approach offered through the Digital Youth Programs, like his experience during his own SAIT education.

Stefan Herbst and family.
Herbst with his wife and sons who inspire a personal connection to promoting cybersecurity awareness to young people.

“We all have different learning styles, but I think most people love to learn through experience,” he says. “Kids are no different, and the initiatives are hands-on, workshop-based, and that’s great.”

What he hopes students take away from Cybersecurity Awareness Month is that same realization and inspiration he feels towards finding answers and trying new ideas.

“Having them leave feeling empowered to find answers to their own questions and find out for themselves, that’s exciting.”

Cybersecurity Awareness Month

SAIT’s Digital Youth Programs, the School for Advanced Digital Technology, and Advantus360 are excited to offer the following workshops and programs for Cybersecurity Awareness Month:

  • Art of the Possible:
    • Designed for students in Grades 6 – 10, this 90-minute workshop will explore the security measures that are put into place to protect our privacy and information in our increasingly interconnected society. Students will build and utilize digital signatures to send encrypted messages through the internet that only they can decipher.
  • Future Talks with Advantus360 and with SAIT instructors.
    • Digital Youth: Future Talks is a live 30 - 45-minute speaker series where students connect with industry leaders as they share their personal stories, life experiences, and the career pathways that led them to where they are today.  
    • Designed for students in Grades 10 - 12, this Cybersecurity Month special will connect cybersecurity experts from Advantus360 and SAIT with students to create a forum to discover and demystify the careers of the digital future.

For more information and how to register, visit SAIT Youth Programs.