UWF Receives Cyber-Security Certification and Hosts Visit of Homeland Security Officials

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By: Tony R. McCray

The University of West Florida (UWF), Commissioner Doug Underhill, and Mike Hicks, CEO of Hixardt Technologies were busy last week spreading the word about the visit by Phyllis Shenk, the Deputy Undersecretary of Homeland Security. The focus of the meeting at UWF was on “Minorities in Technology”.   During the same week, Scott Luth, the CEO of Florida West, was attending the Eighth Annual National Cyber Summit in Huntsville, Alabama where UWF was designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education through the academic year 2021-22!

FloridaWest is the new corporate alliance spearheading economic and business development in Pensacola, Escambia County, and Northwest Florida (thus the name branding FloridaWest).   Scott Luth, in an interview with the Pensacola Voice stated, “The designation of UWF as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education is very significant for our area with both Corry Station and the Naval Air Station serving a critical military mission in this area that contributes to their economic impact in the region”.

The focus on minorities in technology at the Homeland Security presentation at UWF, brought the efforts of the federal government to recruit a diverse workforce to the critical jobs in the cyber security field to the forefront.  In fact, during the exit from the meeting by Brigadier General Greg Touhill, (the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Cyber Security and Communications), County Commissioner Doug Underhill made the statement that he and Mike Hicks of Hixardt actually came up with the idea of the local “Pensacola CyberThon” during lunch writing the concept up on a napkin.

As an African-American leader in technology, Mike Hicks is emerging as a critical link to the local and regional African-American community’s involvement in the tremendous employment and business growth in the cyber security and other technology fields.  Rev. Willie Demps, CEO of S.L. Jones Christian Academy, Inc., met with Underhill and Hicks briefly to profess his interest in bringing cyber security training to his school. Lloyd Reshard, the African-American CEO of Cognitive Big Data Systems, also plays a critical role of breaking into these new technology opportunities while opening doors for other minorities.  Hicks is also involved with the BP Oil Spill RESTORE Act funding applicant, SOAR With RESTORE, providing cyber security training on a proposed computer technology training center network to be established throughout Escambia County with the support of Jesse Turner of JT Computers.  Turner built a computer technology training center for Unity in the Family, the environmental jobs training non-profit located in Brownsville.

Finally in an interview with Commissioner Underhill, he urged African-Americans and other minorities to seek opportunities in the cyber security career field as the salaries are double the average wage in Escambia County.  He stated, “Technology jobs offer the very best of a post-racial and post-gender work environment because the technology skills are the most important attribute that this workplace is looking for.   

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