Ishan Jadhwani is a magician. He can hack into the networks of major tech companies, bypass wi-fi restrictions to access his favorite Netflix shows, and code his own apps. And the 16-year-old manages to do it all while balancing his two cybersecurity jobs with his studies at Riverside High School.
“It is a big passion for me. Honestly, work isn’t the same as work. If I could work on it every minute, if there were no schools, I would,” he said.
He is so highly skilled that he has led seminars for IRS, DIA, DHS and CIA employees, teaching about network penetration testing and other cybersecurity protocols.
“Ishan is a phenom,” said his former teacher, Jennifer Marden, recalling him as a freshman in her cybersecurity class two years ago. “Here’s this 14-year-old boy bringing real-life examples into the classroom, telling us how he played bug bounty for fun.”
A bug bounty is an award given to hackers who ethically find and report vulnerabilities in a company’s network and programs. Jadhwani says his bonuses are secret, but he’s made a big chunk of the change penetrating a network of well-known companies, spanning from the auto industry to fast food. There’s a good chance the average consumer benefits from Jadhwani’s fixes on a daily basis.
In 2020, Marden is nominated for the National Cybersecurity Teacher of the Year award. Representatives from the White House came to observe Marden’s classroom. She said they were so blown away by a presentation by Jadhwani about using software to crack passwords that Marden and Jadhwani were invited to present at the White House. But the pandemic hit, causing the invitation to be postponed. Then the administration changed. But Marden hopes Jadhwani will still show off his talents to the country’s leaders.
Jadhwani holds 15 cybersecurity certifications, including the CompTIA Security+ and Amazon Web Services Certified Solutions Architect certifications.
“I’m probably one of the youngest if not the youngest to have that. And when I got that, it was very motivating to get other certifications,” he said of Amazon credentials.
Jadhwani built his first computer when he was 10 years old. However, unlike most pre-teens, he doesn’t care much about using it to play video games.
“I was really interested in how computers work, so I actually bought a computer so I could learn how to hack, because hacking is a really interesting topic for me,” he said. .
Jadhwani’s parents own and operate Wisdom Point, an education IT solutions and training company where Jadhwani works after school, leading a team of 10 programmers. He balances his role as senior director of Technology Services with a part-time gig at Government Acquisitions Inc.
“I go into a fully equipped data center and run the lab there. It’s a lot of work, but I really have to allocate to have goals and milestones and have a schedule that works for me,” he said. “Some days, I will leave my job at Wisdom around 9pm and stop by the data center to check out some servers.”
The guy admits that with his tight schedule, he doesn’t have much time to focus on completing his schoolwork.
Gen Z’ers Join the Invisible War
Jadhwani said he feels urgent to teach others about cybersecurity. He spends most of his spare time instructing teenagers who are studying IT.
“I am extremely worried,” he said of the cybersecurity landscape. “Just look at the way cyber threats are handled today and the frenzied workforce gap we have. I feel like we don’t have enough presence as we need more qualified people to hone more on these cybersecurity threats.”
Marden echoed that point, saying the unemployment rate for cybersecurity workers is 0%. According to the International Organization for Information Systems Security Certification, 2.7 million jobs in cybersecurity have not been completed.
Marden begins each of her courses at Loudoun Valley High School by showing students the abundance of jobs available to professionals without a college degree.
“I want them to see, ‘oh my god, I don’t know what cybersecurity is, but god there’s a thing called a cybersecurity analyst and all I need is a high school diploma and I can earn $50,000 with these certifications,'” she said.
Marden says her role as a teacher is crucial to training professionals who can deal with the evolving threats to society in cyberspace.
“They are happening every day in the United States. They can be small threats or they can be big threats,” she said. “Given what is happening with Russia and Ukraine right now, you can see that. The cyberthreats that happened there spilled over into our world, and so that’s a big, big deal. ”
She points to the May 2021 Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack that disrupted parts of the gasoline supply chain, causing a temporary increase in gas prices on the East Coast.
“People don’t understand what it is until it hits you financially. I think we will see more and more of this type of attack and we need more and more people to protect us against cyber attacks,” she said.
Reserve IT pipelines
On April 19, Google Vice President and Director of Internet Propaganda Vint Cerf, along with Governor Glenn Youngkin, announced that the company would donate $250,000 to CodeVA, an affiliate of the nonprofit organization. National Computer Science Education Foundation, Code.org, to establish seven computer science lab schools. statewide. If the program is approved by the General Assembly, the schools will compete with CodeRVA Regional High School in Richmond, which serves students from more than a dozen school districts. At CodeRVA, the subject is integrated with computer science-based learning.
Schools will span the state in every region, including Loudoun County High School.
“CodeRVA is a great example of how innovation and partnerships can benefit our students and improve their opportunities. The school is a model for Commonwealth innovation schools and proves that we can go beyond ‘one size fits all’ education, Youngkin said at a recent event at school.
But Jadhwani says teenagers can also get a great education outside of the classroom. He recommends teens pursue the online credentials needed for internships or jobs.
“You have to work to get that experience. There is no school in the world that can help you achieve all of that. By having those credentials, you gain a degree of credibility with employers for those opportunities,” he said.