It’s a busy time for Kevin DiClemente: A week ago, the 22-year-old was touring the White House and rubbing elbows with cybersecurity experts from the president’s staff, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency.
On Saturday, he’ll don his cap and gown and join more than 3,600 of his fellow University of Central Florida students accepting degrees at commencement. And on Tuesday, he’ll move to Seattle in preparation for his new job as a software engineer at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash.
“If you’re comfortable, you’re not moving fast enough,” said DiClemente, who grew up in Boston and attended Lake Mary High School. “It’s been great. It’s good to be engaged in giving back to the school and the people who helped us be successful.”
DiClemente was a founding member of the Collegiate Cyber Defense Club @ UCF, also known as Hack@UCF. The student organization was created in 2012 by students who wanted to compete in regional and national cyberdefense competitions.
The students made it to nationals their first year, and for the past two years bested collegiate teams from around the country to become back-to-back national champions. DiClemente was part of both championship teams – earning him and other team members trips to Washington, D.C., for VIP tours and meetings with government and industry cybersecurity experts.
“I’ve had a lot of fun,” he said. “We [previously] had nothing remotely in cybersecurity. UCF provided the infrastructure for us to create the club out of nothing and become the best team in the country or even the world.”
While at UCF, DiClemente also crafted a course called “Topics in Cyber Security,” developed the course materials for it and taught the class this spring. He’s also met with Michael Georgiopoulos, dean of the College of Engineering & Computer Science, to discuss ways to strengthen the university’s computer science curriculum.
Not bad for someone who began his education in cybersecurity as a fifth-grader hacking into the home computer on the game Backyard Baseball. The game didn’t allow him to do what he wanted, so DiClemente changed it to give himself superpowers.
DiClemente won’t have much time to reflect on his time at UCF. In two weeks, he starts his new job with Microsoft working on Windows 10. Fifteen students from UCF’s computer science division have internships there, as well. Three team members who graduated in the spring are now working for Amazon.
DiClemente takes pride in helping pave the way for other students in an industry that could prove to be lucrative as a career.
One report pins the average salary for U.S. security professionals at $116,000. Another report indicates the demand for cybersecurity professionals has grown more than 3.5 times faster than the demand for other IT jobs during the past five years and more than 12 times faster than the demand for all other non-IT jobs. Current staffing shortages are estimated between 20,000 and 40,000 and are expected to continue for years to come.