Long Island STEM Hub Career Conversations event targets teens

Matt Pasucci knows firsthand how daunting it can be to choose a career at a young age.

Growing up in Hicksville, he thought he would work in law enforcement before taking a different path to becoming an executive in a field that didn’t exist yet: cybersecurity.

Pascucci, 41, whose career began as a teenager with an information technology internship, told dozens of students in attendance at the first Long Island Stem Hub Career Conversation event Saturday at the Cradle of Aviation Museum that it’s never too early to think about it. A career in technology. Through learning opportunities and networking, the next generation can jump into one of the growing science, technology, engineering and math-related careers already offered on Long Island, they said.

“I fell into cybersecurity by accident,” Pasucci, director of security operations at a Manhattan investment firm, told Newsday. “Now I can’t get away from it. It’s literally everywhere.”

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He estimates there are 700,000 unfilled jobs nationally in cybersecurity, a field that touches every industry.

Zachary Singleton, a cybersecurity analyst for the US Department of Defense, is not far from being a teenager in the audience. A 2021 graduate of the New York Institute of Technology, Singleton grew up in Ridge obsessed with video games and building his own computer gaming systems. As a student at Longwood High School, he realized he had a knack for working with computers. Three years after graduation, he became the first student to complete Suffolk County Community College’s cybersecurity program.

Today, Singleton is based in the Washington, DC, metro area, spending each workday investigating cyber threats from hackers in foreign countries.

He told the students that the relationships he developed as a student through an internship at Brookhaven National Laboratory got him to where he is today.

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“Now I make it my mission to reach out to my school and professors to give back [to younger students]” said Singleton.

One of those mentors is Michael Nijic, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation and professor of computer science at NYIT, who helped assemble the panel on Saturday.

Nijic says one of the biggest mistakes students make in not pursuing a STEM path is thinking they’re not good at math or science and therefore not qualified based on that lack.

“Close it,” he said, adding that STEM fields are loaded with people who fill roles because of their artistic, investigative or social skills.

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And cybersecurity isn’t the only path to take. NYIT graduate Shanjitha Kirupananthan explains how she became a software engineer at Boeing, working on naval aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles designed to refuel them mid-air.

Cold Spring Harbor High School freshman Skylar Friedman said the event helped her unlock the next steps in finding her career path.

“If all goes well, I want to go into aeronautical engineering,” he said.

The free Saturday morning events, geared toward students in grades 8-12 and aimed at connecting art with education, will continue monthly through the end of the school year. Future discussions will cover careers in manufacturing, aviation, energy and health care.


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