Among the first to receive training, tech firm VILLA-TECH, Inc. is eyeing a prestigious federal contract now that it is CyberReady™.
Cybersecurity is such an important topic that even a company whose business is information technology needs help safeguarding their business. Not only do they need protection from hackers, but for the best profitability, they need a system considered safe enough for dealings with the federal government.
When Miguel Villarreal, who founded tech firm VILLA-TECH, Inc. in 2014, heard about the CyberReadyMBE™ program created by Industry Workforce Solutions (IWS), he knew he needed to get on board. In fact, the program is why he looked into becoming a certified MBE under the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) in the first place.
In a pilot program during the summer of 2021, NMSDC was providing the training free to its Chicago-area certified MBEs. Already committing resources to make his business cyber safe, Villarreal was floored by the opportunity to get this training at no cost. The five-week virtual program is now rolling out again beginning September 13, this time open to every one of NMSDC’s MBEs across the nation.
Yulli Chong, VILLA-TECH’s manager of information security, was already looking at implementing a security framework for the company. CyberReadyMBE™ helped her fill in the gaps and speed up that process. The program involves individualized gap assessments and tailor-made procedures designed to help companies address those gaps.
“The CyberReadyMBE™ program gave us a template we could use to customize our policies and procedures. That was one of gaps we needed to fill,” Chong said.
Chong said that for a company looking to implement security controls and harden their network and systems, it does require an investment of time and money, but she urges companies to press on because it pays off in the form of access to more business.
Once a company commits to following through with addressing and filling their security gaps, doors open. This designation is recognized by NMSDC’s 2,000 corporate members giving MBEs who complete the program an advantage in vying for corporate and federal contracts.
VILLA-TECH leveraged the designation and continued its pathway to the Department of Defense’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) Level II, establishing itself as a company secure enough to be considered for work with the federal government.
The developers of CyberReadyMBE™ had this foresight when creating the program. Knowing that this program will serve as a springboard for further certifications, the team made sure the coursework aligns with federal standards and, in fact, uses the CMMC standards as a benchmark.
“What better security model can you implement than something that the government wants,” Villarreal said. “Because we committed to this program, we are now in the middle of doing one of the largest contracts that our company has ever done in its life and probably will ever do.”
The program’s final phase is to connect CyberReady™ MBEs with a larger group of companies who are currently doing business with the federal government.
Villarreal emphasized that completing the program isn’t easy; there is much work to do, but this program is “gold.”
“For a minority company to have access to a program that is going to get you ready to be at a level where you can deal with the government as part of their supply chain is the greatest gift.”
The program is made possible, in part by corporate sponsors GE, Truist, and Bank of America.
The program was developed and launched by Industry Workforce Solutions. The company’s president and founder, Doreen Gonzalez-Gaboyan, has a broader vision of the program and its impact for the entire country.
“Ultimately, we’re providing this training as a way of strengthening the entire U.S. supply chain. An important way of doing that is to diversify it by ensuring every business, large and small, can offer something of value. With NMSDC’s commitment to providing the training to its certified MBEs, a large chunk of the supplier ecosystem is able to be partners in a global economy.”
She adds, “It bolsters the strength of the U.S. supply chain. It bolsters the productivity and profit of individual businesses. And, it keeps us all as safe as possible against cybercrime. It’s good for us all.”
The first cohort of CyberReadyMBE™ begins Sept. 13. Visit nmsdc.org/cyberreadymbedesignation/ to sign up now!