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The Ultimate Hack Job: Why H&R Block Seeks Non-Traditional Talent for Its Cybersecurity Team

Written by Bannon Puckett on Aug 4, 2021

Related content: Strategic Partnerships

Since 2019, leading tax preparation services provider H&R Block has been working with 2U’s Career Engagement Network to source top candidates for its open tech positions and internships. To date, the company has hired three graduates from the University of Kansas (KU) Boot Camps, which range from Coding, Data Analytics, and Digital Marketing to Technical Project Management and Cybersecurity.

Information security expert Carraig Stanwyck—a former manager at H&R Block who recently became the director of information security at Wave, a financial management brand for small businesses owned by the company—has a particular interest in the latter field. He and his cybersecurity managers regularly interact with boot camp students through Tech Talks, Demo Days, and other career services offered through KU’s 2U-powered programs. Having begun his career as a human intelligence operator in the U.S. Army, Stanwyck understands the value of team diversity and actively considers talents from non-traditional backgrounds.

“The attraction of a hiring opportunity through 2U is that it’s an additional avenue for us to find strong candidates with different perspectives,” Stanwyck explains. “In cybersecurity, it’s been important to find people with different backgrounds and approaches to thinking. When everyone attacks a problem from the same angle, you get the same results. Having channels like our internship and the boot camps are ways to tap talent for the future.”

Keep reading for more of Stanwyck’s perspective on the growing world of cybersecurity at H&R Block, as well as how 2U-powered boot camps can give students a competitive edge in the market.

We don’t maintain this legacy idea that you have to have a certain number of years of school . . . or that you need a specific certification. A boot camp shows you’re the kind of person who can offer those qualities we value.
— Carraig Stanwyck, director of information security at Wave, a brand of H&R Block

How do 2U-powered boot camps align with the H&R Block mission?

Recent stats say there are over 500,000 available cyber positions nationwide, yet there’s a shortage of talent. And the current legacy pipelines are long, requiring four-year degrees or more. By the time people get out of school they’re already out of date. It takes a long time to ramp anyone up, so that’s why H&R Block is such an amazing cybersecurity career opportunity. We bring people in and help create a development path for them. We also find diverse candidates coming through the 2U system for STEM jobs. The candidates we’re looking for will succeed in a more progressive environment with diverse ideas and unique thought processes.

What skills do you look for in tech talent?

In cyber, soft skills and intangibles are 10, 15, 20 times more important than hard skills. Part of the reason is how fast cyber is evolving. Watch the news and it’s a cat-and-mouse game. As soon as we get good at stopping something, adversaries start something new for us to tackle. So the key skill sets are less about how well you know networking and more about work ethic, drive, and passion. It’s exciting to think about the value candidates in second careers, like many boot camp students, can add to an organization.

How might boot camp students fit into the global culture at H&R Block?

H&R Block has business locations all over the world. But at the same time, there’s just a feeling of belonging and being welcome here. We’re creating a development pipeline where interns and boot camp graduates have opportunities to rise up through the ranks internally. For everyone that comes in, you get onboarded on all the different tools and teams and really get to know the people you're working with.

H&R Block's world headquarters in downtown Kansas City, Missouri

What qualifications are necessary to work in cyber at the company?

One of the coolest things about H&R Block is that we don’t maintain this legacy idea that you have to have a certain number of years of school to do this or so many years to do that, or that you need a specific certification. That just doesn’t work as well as it did in the past. We look at candidates and say OK, maybe they only have two years of this skill, but look at all of these intangibles. Getting through something like a boot camp shows you’re the kind of person who can offer those qualities we value.

What are some of the most critical roles needed on your cybersecurity team currently?

The roles needing more advanced skill sets, which correspond with our global move to cloud services, are challenging to source. This isn’t unique to H&R Block. The industry has over half a million open positions that can’t be filled because there is a large talent gap. In these roles, as the experience and seniority needs increase, the candidate pool gets smaller. Plus, top corporations are competing against each other to land that talent.

How could your H&R Block career trajectory serve as inspiration for boot camp students?

Just last month, I went from being the global security operations manager with H&R Block to the director of information security for Wave. They’re a company with a startup mentality that was brought under the H&R Block umbrella. I don’t have an IT degree and I don't have my CISSP or any kind of big, traditional certification. Yet I’ve been able to come in, be successful, get promoted, and make a career of it. There’s not a lot of that non-traditional thinking across the cyber industry right now, but it’s changing. When I talk to my peers, this is something where H&R Block is well ahead of the curve.

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