2018 Rising Star: Erik Huffman

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Erik Huffman has big plans for the future: creating a cybersecurity academy for middle- and high-school students and shaping a solid foundation for the leadership classes in Handshake Leadership — all while finishing up his doctoral degree from the University of Phoenix.

Handshake Leadership is a creation all Huffman’s own, part cybersecurity firm, part leadership lessons.

“I’m getting my doctorate and I am using those lessons to become a better leader and to help others become better leaders,” the 31-year-old said. “Together, we can collaborate to create a culture we all want to be part of.”

Currently, Handshake Leadership is working with the Widefield School District 3 to develop cybersecurity classes and to train technology leaders of tomorrow.

It’s an area of his business that comes from the heart, he said. And his future goal: to create a United States National Cybersecurity Academy to educate youth about the needs for cybersecurity education and career.

“School districts are starting to recognize that there needs to be a focus on this,” he said. “They need cyber classes to address the threat — but also to develop the kind of workforce we need.”

And it’s not just about high schools. Huffman’s dream is far bigger than that, and includes adult education and eventually, a peer-reviewed academic journal to exchange ideas and the latest advances in the industry.

His focus on the work has paid off. Through Handshake Leadership, Huffman was invited to speak at NASA about research in cybersecurity. He’s also on the board of the Information Systems Security Association and was a Disabled American Veterans keynote speaker for his field.

He remains focused on leadership lessons as well, he said. He classifies his own leadership style as “situational.”

“I don’t believe any one style gets you through every situation,” he said. “I am a transactional leader, and believe in collaboration to solve problems.”

And he’s had some practice at leading. Huffman has been lead associate dean at Independent University and associate dean at CollegeAmerica. He prefers nontraditional education, he said.

“They’re focused on adult learners,” he said. “It just fits in more with what I do.”

His future, he says, includes the Springs.

“I’m set on Colorado Springs,” he said. “I want to seek out more opportunities to help K-12 school districts become more cyber aware.”

But it doesn’t leave a lot of time for socializing.

“My best time, a couple of my best friends meet every Wednesday night,” he said. “It’s our time to just relax, hang out, laugh. I really value that time. But I love what I do, so I do it all the time. I don’t see it as work. It’s my passion.”

— Amy Gillentine Sweet

What do you want to be when you grow up?

When it’s all said and done, I want to leave the world a better place than when I found it. I want whatever I’m doing to be positive.

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