An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Ralph Sita, the co-founder of Cybrary, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Cybrary – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
After founding and working at TrainACE, a cybersecurity and information technology training school, we noticed major issues within the business infrastructure as the industry talent gap started to grow. Traditional classroom training wasn’t scalable as a result of the fast-paced industry and the ever-evolving technology. In an industry where everything can suddenly change, time, speed, and access were key factors in educating IT and security professionals to enter the field. Knowing this, we were determined to create a solution to meet this major industry need to fill the talent gap.
At the time, training was offered as four year college degrees, costing at least $40,000, or a one-week certification or skills courses for $4,000 and up. We leveraged upcoming tech trends that were developing, including online learning, to reduce the barrier to entry for professionals in this field. We began to build up the Cybrary online education platform,
Preparing professionals to perform at jobs in the fastest moving industry on the planet required a model that could move equally fast. So with a talent gap that was growing faster than ever before, we needed to pull in drastically larger numbers of people who were previously not participating. We set out to create a crowd sourced model so that all of the best from the industry could keep the learning fresh, continually evolving, and fast moving through the power of community. We then decided to make Cybrary completely frictionless, with free video training, because we wanted no barriers, so that those who could not participate previously now had no barriers preventing them from learning.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
Like most startups, we had challenges when we first started Cybrary. There were initial hurdles around making any money without having a big asset to profit from. Another challenge was getting people to use the site so we could build a true community. Some might use the phrase “if you build it, they will come” when assessing the success of a good business plan. But in order to scale, you have to ask the tough questions on how to drive growth and how to make an experience that’s good enough to keep users coming back, and even better – telling their friends to join, too.
We also had growing pains after our investment rounds. It’s one thing to scale your business where your customers are concerned, but scaling your talent is a whole separate challenge. Working to find the best talent who also believe in the company’s mission is something we take pride in. Once we eventually grew our team, we literally outgrew our space and had to make swift and efficient decisions to find the right location for our continued innovation.
It’s no secret that the pandemic has presented economic challenges we never would have imagined. Luckily for us, we were already in a position to quickly pivot to address those obstacles quickly. With a mostly remote team and a platform that’s easily accessible and affordable, we’ve actually seen a lot of success during this tough time. In fact, with the unemployment rates climbing, Cybrary’s training platform has been a beacon of hope for those interested in cyber education or full career changes. However, that’s not the case for most startups right now and we’re very fortunate to be able to adjust quickly. Every business goes through infancy issues, but it’s been one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences I’ve ever had.
What does the future hold for Cybrary?
Cybrary continues to be focused on delivering on our mission to close the cybersecurity skills gap through the combination of high quality content, platform technologies, and community driven growth in building a cybersecurity-enabled workforce.
As the only cloud-based security skills platform to assess, develop, and measure the technical organization’s security skills, we will continue to leverage real skill data to guide users through a path that targets the work role or company they seek. These insights provide us with a way to create more efficient paths for the user to earn their next professional role. And organizations looking to align with the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework have access to curriculums professionally mapped to the knowledge, skills, and abilities outlined by the framework.
Currently in beta, Cybrary customers gain exclusive access to our disruptive new product, Cybrary Recruit. As the first platform in the market to bring together professional development and recruitment at scale, customers unlock the ability to build talent pipelines to source and recruit the most qualified cybersecurity talent from our global member base of 3 million professionals.
The most exciting thing about what Cybrary is building is that we have assembled the world’s largest cybersecurity career development network. Our platform is powered by a community of over 2000 industry subject matter experts and creators. Through our elite network of creators, Cybrary produces the most comprehensive catalog of certification and skill-based video course content, virtual hands-on lab environments, practice test software, and assessment tools.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in College Park?
College Park is a blossoming tech hub. Last year, Capital One opened a new innovation lab in the area, plus WeWork and Adobe also made moves nearby. As far as cybersecurity companies, we’re neighbors to BlueVoyant. We were fortunate to partner with Ken Ulman, the University of Maryland Chief Strategy Officer for Economic Development, in the “Discovery District”. We’re excited to be a part of a growing roster of startups and companies that are expanding within the area, and seeing others join the neighborhood is a sign of the significant progress that this area has made as a premier business location.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurs not only need to be able to run a business, but also lead a team. Self-awareness is a key leadership trait and versatility is a must, since it’s often required. Most importantly, trust is a critical component of our community. Whether it’s with your customers, employees, co-founders or investors, it’s nearly impossible to build a strong business foundation without first building trust with all of a company’s various stakeholders.