Mastercard® Talent Initiative

Booting up tomorrow’s digital defenders

Today society faces two undeniable realities: the digital infrastructure we rely on is under constant attack from rogue states and cyber criminals, and college graduates face high levels of student debt. While the two issues seem unrelated on the surface, a breakthrough collaborative aims to address both at once. Tenet Partners was called upon to play a strategic role in making it a success.

First, some background. There’s a critical shortage of qualified cybersecurity talent, particularly for public-sector roles. Top computer science graduates often set their sights on high-paying, high-visibility positions with leading technology companies like Apple, Google and Facebook. What are government agencies and others in the private sector to do? Create a smarter recruitment solution.

A first-of-its-kind cross-sector opportunity

Tenet Partners was invited by our long-time client, Mastercard, to brand an innovative cybersecurity workforce program. Mastercard was leading a public-private consortium of corporate sponsors that also included Microsoft and Workday, as well as government agencies like the CIA, FBI, EPA, Department of Defense and Department of Energy.

While we had collaborated with Mastercard for two decades, this nonpartisan, nonprofit initiative called for an entirely new solution with its own name, brand architecture, logo and visual identity system. Our work would be responsible for luring the best and brightest away from the Googles of the world with an opportunity to impact national security.

Decoding a mission-worthy program name

The right name would be evaluated on several criteria: it had to telegraph cybersecurity, be industry agnostic and show graduates that this was much more than a job — it was a mission. The name also had to project a platform which government sponsors and corporate partners could see themselves as part of. It had to be bold, inclusive and intriguing, yet transparent.

Our editorial team began by surveying the competitive landscape. While there were no direct competitors, there were existing government fellowships like the Cyber Corps and Cyber Command — both good, strong names to use as benchmarks. We set about creating something that would capture the same sense of duty, but position itself as a point of entry and not a long-term enlistment. Ultimately, we developed and presented the Cybersecurity Talent Initiative.

We built into the name a positioning that announces a program, rather than just a job. The word “talent” conveyed an invitation to apply and nods at applicants’ aptitude, while “initiative” creates a sense of paycheck-with-a-purpose. Together the three words demonstrate the program’s strategy, mission and opportunity for students to help our country while launching a promising career.

Visual identity unifies program partners

Thinking through the challenge to represent this group of program stakeholders, our design team created a visual mark that pulls from both the public and private sectors. More than a logo, the design carries the gravitas of a badge, or a seal — an insignia that would look as appropriate on a uniform sleeve as it would printed on a business card. The three points of the logo can be seen to represent the student, the government agencies and the corporate sponsors together in a subtle patriotic palette.

Mission accomplished? We’re on our way

With a mission to bolster our nation’s cybersecurity ranks, the Cybersecurity Talent Initiative has big boots to fill. The program launched in April of 2019 with a goal of fielding its first class of 50 recruits in 2020. After graduation, students will work for one of the government agencies, developing industry credibility and critical workplace skills. The program offers leadership training, pairing graduates with senior-level mentors. After their two-year government assignment, participants armed with new talents are encouraged to apply for positions with private-sector members. Once hired by a group member, participants receive student loan assistance.

The Cybersecurity Talent Initiative gives students the opportunity to make a significant impact, both for their country and their professional lives. That makes us proud to have contributed to the project.

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