#cybersecurity | hacker | Tips for those of all ages interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity

Today, we are facing a frightening shortage of cybersecurity
professionals in the workforce. Specifically, this widening gap is expected to
lead to 3.5 million jobs left
in the cybersecurity profession by 2021.

The month of October is National Cybersecurity
Awareness Month
, which aims to raise awareness about the importance of
cybersecurity, and additionally, draw attention to careers in the field. With
this top of mind, I sat down with my security team to ask what advice, tips,
and ideas they could offer to help empower the next generation of security

Their advice provides insights for individuals of different
age groups who might have their sights set on pursuing careers in the field, as
they recognize that people find their passions at different moments in life. As
such, I’d like to share a few lessons that came out of my discussion with my
team for people of all ages who might be interested in one day entering a
career in cybersecurity.

Nature & Nurture

Most people who get involved in technology had an early
aptitude for it. For example, one individual on my security team recalls having
an interest in technology at the age of five, when his mom would let him take
apart old electronics. I, too, was exposed to computers and security at a young
age – around twelve years old – when at the time there was no Internet
(remember the BBS systems), so movies like ‘War Games’ and ‘Hackers’ shaped my
malleable brain.

What can we learn from this? If you see a young person showing
interest in technology, fostering it is a sure-fire way to ensure they will
continue to grow and ultimately learn the value of becoming part of the
security industry. It’s up to us — parents, teachers, friends, and the security
community to nurture children and to aid in their learning if there is a
natural desire there to get involved with technology. Gone are the days of
phone phreaking, we can now tell early on if children have a knack for

Studying Goes into
High Gear

Older children in high school typically find themselves
gazing towards the future. With this age group in mind, a SailPoint security
engineer shared this advice, “do some research to find more information about
all of the career options associated with cybersecurity to get a lay of the
career landscape. You may even consider, for example, taking an opportunity to
participate in a ‘Capture the Flag’ exercise.”

Research is an excellent first step, and here are some other
bits of advice as well. First, a no-brainer – study hard – as a student’s affinity
for learning and learning fast will be measured in interviews and in college.
Second, learn a programming language. Learning python, for example, is needed
in today’s security teams and the traditional security engineer who does not
know any programming or scripting languages is in low demand and slowly
becoming obsolete. Meaning, learn to take a developer mindset. If you cannot
speak their language, then you will struggle to talk risk to them.

Next, learn the cloud. With the latest trend around moving to
the cloud, security leaders need to know and understand the cloud. They need to
know CI/CD
development and where security fits in with these new concepts and
frameworks. Finally, be the solutions provider, as today too many security
leaders waste valuable time and become obstacles to the business when
articulating risk. If you bring up an issue or risk, be sure to bring your
recommendations to solve the problem along with you. This will only increase
your credibility and integrity with the business.

Growing as a Lifelong

It was a resounding yes from the security team that anyone
interested in cybersecurity needs to get a degree, as going to college helps
you to learn how to learn. No one in IT or security has all the answers, but
what defines us as IT and security folks is how we figure out problems. You learn
how to become a lifelong learner in college and develop new skills on the job
as you fine tune your natural gifts. Find your passion and be the very best at
it, and that will make you stand out from the rest.

We even believe that degrees like math or philosophy would
work for anyone looking to break into the field. You need to hone your
cybersecurity skills on the side, but these degrees teach you logic and
problem-solving. One security program manager on the team said college students
should aim to get a job/internship as soon as possible, even if it is not
technical. The goal here is that every industry has a security element, so if a
job is not technical in nature, you are still learning workflows and problems
on some level that deal with cybersecurity. That’s just the nature of the world
we live in.

How to Break into
Cybersecurity as a Professional

And finally, if you’ve graduated from college, but didn’t
get a computer science degree – that’s OK. In fact, one person on our team
didn’t realize until he was in the military in his 20s that he was interested
in cybersecurity, and he now is an extremely valuable asset to our department.

We see adults shifting their career paths frequently, and as
mentioned earlier, even non-computer degrees can be an asset. Cybersecurity is
not rocket science, but it does take passion and craft, so new folks aiming to join
the industry should choose a certification in a topic/skill they like and run
with it. Another tip – try to gain some level of skills in this area before
making the jump so that you can tell interesting stories about cybersecurity in
interviews to help set you apart from your peers. One example – volunteer to
participate in projects that are IT-related, especially if there is a security
component in your current role. You never know what kind of doors will open
when you put yourself out there. As the CISO of a public company, when I
interview someone, I am looking for their story around cybersecurity and their
passion, which is usually coupled with knowledge, so all of these small efforts
truly do add up.

Individuals discover their passion at different times of
their lives. If, by chance, an individual is inclined to pursue a career in
cybersecurity – no matter at what age – then they should consider this a
tremendous area of opportunity, as the workforce is in great need of
cybersecurity pros. And, seeing as we’re right in the middle of Cybersecurity
Awareness Month, there’s no better time to start making strides towards your
future role.

Charles Poff, CISO, SailPoint

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