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Why Hackathons are a competitive but fun way of getting students tech-ready for the future


Focus on Cybersecurity at GET SET HACK by RISE

According to research undertaken during the National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), on jobs and salaries in cybersecurity, it was found that analysts active in the industry can earn a significantly higher salary in comparison to professionals engaged in other in-demand professions. In fact, earnings in the sector are trending upwards alongside the increase in demand for cybersecurity knowhow.

Worryingly, considering the rise in cybercrimes and cyber attacks, there is a substantial gap between the demand for and supply of qualified cybersecurity experts—as much, in fact, as a million specialists, according to NASSCOM.

One way of unearthing the right talent is by organising hackathons, coding events in which computer programmers and software developers come together to engage in finding solutions to common problems, either by building new or enhancing old software programmes. Recently, RISE—an innovative, technology-first online campus—organised GET SET HACK, a hackathon that seeks to prepare India’s GenNext programmers and developers for the evolving job scenario, especially in the domain of cybersecurity.

The most encouraging thing about the hackathon was the number of young men and women showing interest, an indication that when it comes to careers and opportunities in tech, India shows little sign of slowing down. In fact, the country’s proclivity for innovation is as strong as ever.

Gaurav Bhatia, CEO of RISE, spoke to The Week about GET SET HACK, its standout performers, and the positive spin-offs that can emerge from such events.

Q What is the geographical spread of participants for the Hackathon? Which cities did you witness maximum participation from? Also, specify the participation ratio of female to male students

A GET SET HACK by RISE witnessed massive success as we marked more than 22,000 participants from all across India. The pool of participants was a mix of smaller towns and big cities. The state that witnessed the most participation was Andhra Pradesh, at 10 per cent—AP had also partnered with RISE for the hackathon. Interestingly, the female to male student participation ratio for the hackathon was 29:71.

Q Who are the winners and what are the prizes bagged by these participants?

A Sarthak Jain from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi (Time taken for completing challenge: 37 minutes; Rank: 1st; Prizes: 100% placement offer + 100% scholarship on Cybersecurity Bootcamp PG course); Arnab Sen from IIEST, Shibpur (39 minutes; 2nd; 100% placement offer + 100% scholarship on Cybersecurity Bootcamp PG course); Manish Kumar from Vinobha Bhave University, College of Engineering & Technology, Hazaribagh (42 minutes; 3rd; internship + 100% scholarship on Cybersecurity Bootcamp PG course); Vaibhavi Paliya from VIT Bhopal (46 minutes; 4th; internship + 100% scholarship on Cybersecurity Bootcamp PG course); Deepanshu Arya from Maharaja Surajmal Institute, New Delhi (49 minutes; 5th; Internship + 100% scholarship on Cybersecurity Bootcamp PG course)

Q How important are Hackathons like GET SET HACK by RISE as a tool to equip youth with Advanced Technologies?

A There have been many hackathons in the past but GET SET HACK by RISE is the first one to get this many (22,300) participants, which is one of its firsts in this field. Such hackathons help the upcoming generation to be ready for developing job trends in technologically developing countries like India, by creating awareness about Cybersecurity among this generation and by providing access to high-quality, industry-oriented certification programmes to the youth of countries like India. Currently, RISE is offering such a course in collaboration with ThriveDX, where students are trained and also work on capstone projects, get internships, and learn directly from the industry experts.

Q What is the current demand shortage in the market when it comes to a well-equipped cyber workforce?

A As per studies conducted by ISACA and reports like the ‘2022 Cybersecurity Skills Gap’ by Fortinet, it is understood that 60 per cent of firms struggle to recruit cybersecurity talent while 52 per cent find it hard to retain the talent, and 42 per cent report that their cybersecurity team is understaffed, putting many organisations at risk. This unfulfilled gap is a great opportunity for skilled cybersecurity professionals.

Q What salary packages and roles are being bagged by top students in this field? Could you list a few recruiters in this space?

A A mid-career Cybersecurity Analyst with 4-9 years of experience earns an average salary of Rs.7.6 Lakhs per year, while an experienced Cybersecurity Analyst with 10-20 years of experience earns an average salary of Rs.15.5 Lakhs per year.

Q What kind of challenges were set at different stages of the competition? How did the participants prepare for them during the course of their programmes?

A We initially had a screening test for all 22,000+ students based on which we shortlisted the top 1,000. To prepare, they attended webinars and workshops on the following topics—Forensics (hiding data in unsuspecting files); Intro to Cybersecurity & Web Application penetration; Self-study (Cryptography fundamentals); Classic Ciphers & Encoding; Final Challenge on Cryptography, where students had to decrypt coded files and find the hackers & their locations in the fastest time possible.

Q How did your association with ThriveDX and the Andhra Pradesh government come about? Are you planning on leveraging the impact of this hackathon further? If so, how?

A ThriveDX is our course partner for our Cybersecurity programme and it was a natural progression for them to be associated with the hackathon. The Andhra Pradesh government reached out to us via their Andhra Pradesh State Council of Higher Education, as they wanted to associate with our hackathon.

With GET SET HACK by RISE receiving backing from the Andhra Pradesh government, collaboration between the state and/or the Centre, and the education and corporate sectors, points the way ahead for boosting the country’s collective potential. Further, by focusing on reducing the gap between demand and supply, through ensuring there are enough cybersecurity and related courses available, India can meet all its tech and online-security challenges.