Over the past three years, Ed Garcia has learned right along with his students at Moorpark College when it comes to cybersecurity. Like a lot of IT professionals, he didn’t spend much time thinking about cyber threats until talk of hacking and cybercrime picked up in the media.

Garcia used his drive and connections to quickly launch both an associate degree in cybersecurity and a cyber club at Moorpark College. Both are off to a strong start and poised to continue growing.

“Three years ago, I sensed that cybersecurity was an area that needed more attention,” Garcia said. “I started building courses in the community college system, which is a very long process, so I wanted to get started right away.”

Garcia joined the Computer Network Systems Engineering (CNSE) department at Moorpark College in 2001. Before becoming an instructor, he spent 20 years at Southern California Edison, where he did everything from programming to networking. He also discovered his passion for teaching while working with at-risk students through a company outreach program.

In 2017, he was named a Ventura County Innovates Pathfinder by the Ventura County Office of Education. The ward celebrates talented leaders in education, business and community service who have made significant contributions in building pathways to employment for Ventura County students.

Garcia has never formally worked in cybersecurity, so he looked CompTIA and other industry resources, as well as models in place at other community colleges throughout California. Moorpark College now has the only cybersecurity degree in Ventura County, complete with a state-of-the-art classroom.

Last fall, the college also launched a cyber club to give students even more hands-on experience to complement what they are learning in the classroom. The club helped Garcia host the California Mayors Cyber Cup at Moorpark College and will begin entering its own cyber competitions in the upcoming school year.

From his own career in IT, Garcia knows that the teamwork and other skills the students learn in the classroom and as part of the club will be crucial as they enter the workforce.

“I’ve always been very team focused and have tried to contribute to whatever teams I’m part of,” Garcia said. “It’s wonderful to be working in cybersecurity, an area where there’s demand and excitement around technology.”

Paula Hodge, Deputy Sector Navigator for Information Communication Technologies and Digital Media in the South Central Coast Region, said Garcia’s infectious energy and enthusiasm are evident throughout the region and the state.

“Ed is an outstanding faculty member in the South Central Coast region community colleges,” Hodge said. “He embodies the ‘why’ in California Community Colleges. He is student-centric and an outstanding mentor to his existing and future students preparing them for careers in cybersecurity.”

Beyond specific skills and the promise of a stable job, Garcia said cybersecurity provides a place for students to fit in and channel their interests into something productive for themselves and society.

“There’s a whole generation who are trying to find themselves, and this is a healthy place for them,” Garcia said. “I’m doing my part by providing the facility and the direction for our programs.”

A native of Los Angeles, Garcia holds a master’s degree in information technology from American Intercontinental University and a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems from California State University, Los Angeles.

He plans to spend the next few years solidifying the programs he’s built so his successor will have a firm foundation to grow from. Though he works hard, he said much of it does not feel like work at all.

“I really do feel this is my calling is to provide opportunities for the next generation,” he said.