Commonwealth Cyber Initiative’s Cybersecurity Traineeship launches careers in cybersecurity


The Commonwealth Cyber Initiative Northern Virginia Node (CCI NoVa Node) is preparing for the third iteration of its Cybersecurity Traineeship Program, which offers a seven-week course to Northern Virginia residents interested in pivoting into the cybersecurity sector followed by career support from George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College professionals.  

CCI NoVa Node map
CCI NoVa Node's region is outlined in light blue.  

Course Beginnings

The program’s intensive, full-time course curriculum familiarizes trainees with subjects relevant to Information Technology and cybersecurity, such as Python, database design, SPLUNK, and AWS. Trainees attend class all day and complete homework assignments outside of class.  

Keyvon Riley, Aaron Hornbuckle, and Walter WIlliams, members of the program’s first cohort, credit the program with launching their careers in tech.  

“The course days go by really quickly, so practicing is important,” said Riley. “The workload was very fair and needed in order to learn as much as a person can in the allotted time.” 

“Through a fast-paced learning environment, we were introduced to many concepts, processes, and tools that would be useful and relevant to entering this new environment,” said Hornbuckle. “It also prepared me by showing me how much there is to know and learn in this field, which continuously expands the longer I've worked in the industry.” 

Williams said the program exceeded his expectations: "Despite my initial nervousness due to a lack of industry understanding, I left feeling equipped with a solid foundation of cybersecurity knowledge." 

Scott Wood, the associate director of IT and Business Programs at Northern Virginia Community College, who designs the course curriculum each year, adapts the course to the shifting needs of the tech sector by consulting industry partners. Next year, Wood will also incorporating guidelines set forth in “National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy,” a 2023 report from the White House. 

“In addition to assessing technical skills, trainees are evaluated on participation, curiosity, creativity, communication, collaboration, and professionalism,” said Wood. “I’ve been amazed at the level of dedication and commitment from trainees in both iterations of the program. The program runs June through August, when most people are thinking about summer vacations and outdoor activities. The trainees in both programs really put in the work. They didn’t just show up for class. They took an active role in learning the skills and remained engaged throughout the seven-week program.” 

Time for Internships

After completing the course, high performers in the program are placed in full-time internship roles with tech companies in Northern Virginia. Riley, Hornbuckle, and Williams each completed internships with Peraton before being offered full-time positions at the company. Riley and Hornbuckle are now cyber security systems engineers, and Williams is a UX/UI designer. 

"It was an honor to gain on-the-job cybersecurity experience," Williams said. "My internship provided opportunities to shadow projects, contribute to use case development, and apply my UX/UI design skills in unexpected ways." 

Riley noted that behind his success was a significant amount of work. For example, between his internship and starting his formal start date at Peraton, Riley became CompTIA Security+ certified.  

“My industry landing did and still does surprise me, because cybersecurity is not for beginners,” Riley explained. “Most cybersecurity [workforce] members have five years or more in the IT field before landing a cyber role. I did not know that when I landed my role and thus had a hard time grasping the level of IT I entered into. Nevertheless, I hit the ground running and would not change it.”  

Moving in New Directions

Riley will begin a master’s in information technology in the fall. “I have made the most of every opportunity since the traineeship, and it has led to my success today,” he said. “My future in tech is bright!” 

Hornbuckle echoed Riley's sentiments, emphasizing the program's role in facilitating a smooth transition into his role. The program's emphasis on continuous learning resonated strongly with Hornbuckle, who noted the ever-evolving nature of the tech landscape and the importance of staying abreast of emerging trends. 

A former fine arts teacher, Williams' transition into a UX/UI designer underscores the program's role as a pathway to career reinvention. "The program has undoubtedly led me to a rewarding career in tech/cybersecurity," he said, adding, "I was surprised by the opportunity to utilize my UX/UI design skills within cybersecurity. This fusion of disciplines reflects the dynamic nature of the field and the endless possibilities for professional growth." 

With a curriculum designed in collaboration with industry experts and with a commitment to continuous improvement, CCI NoVa Node’s Cybersecurity Traineeship Program offers individuals seeking to break into the cybersecurity and IT sectors skills, confidence, and resources to embark on rewarding careers in technology. 

“CCI created a great way to give new opportunities to those wanting a career change into cybersecurity,” said Riley. “I will always be grateful I was one of the first people to have successfully completed this program."