Why Mastercard is funding the next generation of cryptographers


via block

QUICK TAKE

  • Mastercard is overseeing a project geared at getting middle-schoolers to learn how to code and understand cryptography
  • Executive Dana Lorberg also says the firm is building its expertise internally, saying the tech has “penetrated” public consciousness
  • The payment giant is specifically focusing on training girls – with the shortfall here most severe

IBM, Microsoft, JPMorgan, PayPal; All major tech firms openly buying into the blockchain phenomenon, one by one.

And at the heart of this phenomenon is private key cryptography, alongside, of course, coding manpower.

But at Mastercard, there are two concerns about the sustainability of this growing technological discovery. First, it’s the number of jobs that require expertise in the field relative to the tiny number of people trained to fill them. Secondly, at the current rate, the technology will remain dependent on man power; excluding 50% of the population; namely, girls and women.

“Cryptography and cyber security are crucial fields…but finding women in them is like finding unicorns,” says Dana Lorberg, executive vice president of Operations and Technology at Mastercard.

She tells The Block this twofold challenge is what’s behind the company’s ongoing investment in the Girls4Tech education programme, founded in 2014. It’s hoping to reach 300,000 girls by the end of the year; encouraging middle-schoolers around the world to learn about tech and become potential Mastercard employees. Indeed, at present, 75% fewer girls than boys consider jobs in STEM according to a national 2017 Gender parity report.

The inclusion of cryptography training in the programme is a nod to its growing importance in the space and indeed to Mastercard’s payments technology.

“Why do we have the cryptography piece? Why do we care about that particular tech? I’ve been in tech for a long time and I feel like cryptography is one of the first technologies that has penetrated the consuming public…It has become interesting to the world,” says Lorberg.

She also noted the company itself is investing internally in the feature as part of its scheme to build both safety and trust.

“Cryptography is a very important part of what we want to do,” Lorberg noted, confirming the firm is hiring an ever-growing number of engineers in the space.

Although she would not reveal how much the company has spent on the Girls4Tech programme, she said a huge amount of human resources – including executives – had invested in it.

A crypto Mastercard may be a while off, but it’s clear the next generation is preparing for the potential outcome. And with a bit a luck, girls as well as boys will be gearing up to write and solve code.

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