3.27.23 > Shawn Riley

Can you name a job that does not use computer technology today? There are a few, but very, very few.  The near ubiquitous usage of internet connected computer technology has blown the cyber challenges of today up hundreds-fold from only a couple decades ago.  While this amazing growth in technology has simplified lives and brought new opportunities around the world, the major challenge this technology has brought is that it requires immense teams to secure it.  Sadly, we don’t have anywhere near enough people to work the security problems.

Workforce challenges across the cyber industry having been getting worse for decades.  A combination of dynamic and accelerating attack types, the shift to new ways of work, and digitization of everything has brought the world to nearly 3 million open jobs in the cyber fields.  Once you add the fact that more than 90% of jobs in America use a computer every day and nearly 100% of jobs use computers multiple times weekly, the depth of knowledge people requires to defend themselves is growing and growing.

Today, only 7 states have computer science standards and graduation requirements.  And this past month, North Dakota became the first state to require cyber security within their graduation standards.

With national data showing that children that are not exposed to a career or a constructive problem by the conclusion of the 3rd grade will rarely engage in that field, it is possible North Dakota has become the birthplace of a real solution in the cyber workforce crisis.

Led by State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota has assembled computer science and cyber science standards for Kindergarten through Seniors with a handoff to the University systems that allow for a full K-PHD integration.  Starting in 2018 these guidelines were able to be implemented across the state and now in 2023 have been signed into law to be a requirement for graduation.  These requirements completely change the conversation.   Regardless of a student’s future career choices, they will learn basic knowledge of the risks and rewards of technology.

“This is a historic first-in-nation piece of legislation that’s going to benefit North Dakota’s schools, students, families in our institutions,” said Governor Doug Burgum.

Governor Burgum may be modest in his assessment.  Not only will this legislation improve the situation for students, families and institutions, but it will set a marker for every state in the union.  Children who grow up to be farmers, nurses, engineers, journalists, and every imaginable profession will have a base knowledge in computer and cyber science.  They will understand in Kindergarten that sharing is great, but be careful of sharing online.  In speaking with students from all around the state, it is clear that the messaging is working.  A pair of senior girls from Drake-Anamoose discussed their thoughts at the state’s High School Cyber Championships: “No matter what career we go into, cyber security will be essential for our decisions.”

Every state needs to consider legislation at least as progressive as North Dakota.  In fact, twelve other states are considering different varieties of computer science and cyber science education changes this 2023 political cycle.  The North Dakota graduation standards allow for the usage of science or math credits to be used for classes like threat analysis, network security operations, or risk assessment.  Schools are allowed to be very broad in their ability to apply cyber security credits through high school.

Ultimately, the only way to solve the massive cyber security and workforce issues is to help the entire workforce, whether working in cyber security or not, to under the risks of the technology they use.  Students need to realize the implications of a potential hack on themselves and the organizations they belong to.    Boards need to understand the risks they are managing.  Entrepreneurs need to understand the real costs of cyber to their business.  Our economy, our privacy, our security is dependent on the general population understanding and managing their risks.  A universal adoption of computer science and cyber science education from Kindergarten through PHD would go a long way to ensuring the safety of everyone, and mitigating much of the cyber security workforce issues of the world.




Shawn Riley is the CEO, Executive Officer Americas, Bitzero

Formerly Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the State of North Dakota Information Technology Department in April 2017 after being appointed by Gov. Doug Burgum. Shawn has served in IT leadership positions for the past 22 years, where he’s demonstrated the ability to transform organizations through the use of technology.

A native of Lanesboro, Minn., Riley earned a bachelor’s degree in information technology administration from American InterContinental University and a master’s degree in business administration from Salt Lake City-based Western Governors University.

Earlier in his career, he consulted at IBM and other Fortune 500 companies nationally and internationally on network, system security and compliance, training, e-health, and e-business projects. From 2004 to 2017, he worked for Mayo Clinic in numerous roles, including regional roles as Chief Information Officer, Chief Technology Officer and Information Management Officer. He is always looking to connect with others who have a “we can change the world” attitude as he strives to be a servant leader and improve lives, empower people, and inspire success.

Shawn and his wife, Michelle, have three children. In his off hours, Shawn enjoys being a history interpreter and competitive marksman. You may find him out in full costume as a colonial soldier telling the stories of the American Revolution.

You can connect with Shawn on LinkedIn at >