Last month, during Cybersecurity Awareness Month, something extraordinary took place at the Arizona State Capitol. Middle and high school-aged girls from all around the Valley gathered for an event that opened doors to the world of cybersecurity in the most exciting way possible.

Organized by Ngan Pham and the state of Arizona, this event aimed to ignite the spark of curiosity in these young minds and introduce them to the captivating realm of cybersecurity and potential careers within it.

The girls had a chance to dive deep into the world of cybersecurity, learning about its importance and the thrilling challenges it presents. They had hands-on experiences that allowed them to truly understand what it’s like to safeguard digital systems and data.

Activities at the event ranged from a design-thinking group exercise to thought-provoking panel discussions. The panels featured cybersecurity information security officers (CISOs) from state agencies, college and university students pursuing cybersecurity, and current state interns. These experts shared valuable insights into the diverse career paths within cybersecurity.

But that’s not all – higher education institutions were there to showcase their programs and opportunities in the field. The event also had some remarkable women in the industry, such as the director of Arizona’s Department of Homeland Security and the top-ranking female general leading the National Guard Cyber Command.

The girls even got to participate in social engineering experiments, similar to those used by cybersecurity professionals to understand and combat online threats. They learned how to use ciphers to encrypt and decrypt messages, a fundamental skill in the world of cybersecurity. They also had the unique opportunity to simulate a real-world cybersecurity attack, experiencing firsthand what it’s like to respond to a security incident.

Among the attendees were students from Cave Creek Unified School District’s Sonoran Trails Middle School, who had a fantastic time exploring the world of cybersecurity and learning from Arizona’s top cybersecurity experts.

This event at the Arizona State Capitol was more than just a learning experience; it was a day of empowerment, inspiration, and the beginning of exciting journeys into the world of cybersecurity. These girls are now equipped with knowledge, skills, and a passion for cybersecurity, ready to take on the challenges and opportunities of the digital age.