This article is sponsored by Fortinet.
When I tell people I work in the field of cybersecurity, I suspect they often get the wrong idea. Even those with careers in technology may envision my day hunched over a console, fine-tuning a firewall or watching for hackers attempting to break in. I may have even thought that myself, earlier in my career.
Nothing can be further from the truth. I’m a computer science graduate and always knew I wanted to work in IT, but never necessarily as a security specialist. But anyone who enters the field as I did quickly learns that security is a diverse field with many different roles, open to people of many diverse experiences and backgrounds. Security is as much a mindset and approach as it is a hard skill, and it’s one that I’ve applied throughout my career. That thinking has opened many doors for me, including my most recent role as a senior software developer at Fortinet.
The biggest pre-requisite for a security career is interest. Whether you’re currently working in the tech field, or looking to enter the field for the first time, there’s a place for you. No matter where you find yourself, here are some things to keep in mind before taking the next step in your career:
Security is critical to many areas
I consider myself a software developer first and foremost. But one of the most important tasks in my role is ensuring that each line of code I create is secure, and that skill has led me to a job that’s predominantly focused on security. That’s a skill that also extends beyond developers. Those well-versed in networks or e-commerce already have a strong underpinning in cybersecurity essentials. Step back, look at your skills, talk to those in the field, and map your career transition.
That’s not to say that only those in technical roles can make the transition. Even if you have no technology background, you may have expertise in a particular industry, like financial services, retail, manufacturing or healthcare. If so, that understanding of the processes that underpin these organizations can be very useful once you’ve acquired some basic cybersecurity skills. Ultimately, security is a business issue, and understanding the core business drivers will give you a significant leg up if you choose to pursue a career in cybersecurity.
It’s more than just hard skills
Granted, many of those working in security have come through a traditional computer science program, and at some point, everyone will need to undergo some form of technical training. But those skills are hardly unattainable or time-consuming. At Fortinet we offer many online certifications and training for people at all levels. And security is in need of project managers, marketers, analysts and more roles where soft skills, business knowledge and an interest in technology and a passion for learning are the primary prerequisites. Don’t exclude yourself on the assumption that cybersecurity is too technical.
Demand is strong. It’s an unfortunate truth that cyberattacks are a permanent fact of life. We’ve seen a surge in hacker activity since the onset of COVID-19, but the number and sophistication of attacks was already growing before the pandemic. As companies continue to embark on their digital transformation, allow people to work from home on a semi-permanent basis, or put data and tools on the cloud, the need for security expertise isn’t going away anytime soon.
That means the need for people with security skills will continue to grow. One estimate of the global shortfall of skilled workers already surpassed four million workers before the pandemic. In a survey we conducted this past March, 89 per cent of Canadian IT managers agreed that the cybersecurity skills shortage has created additional cyber risks for their organization.
Clearly the skills shortage is having a direct impact on the ability of businesses to adequately defend themselves. For those conserving making a career switch, there’s no time like the present.
In this time of uncertainty, many people are stepping back and re-assessing their career options. If any of this sounds appealing, my message to you is this: Have a conversation with a security expert, try one of our Fortinet NSE courses and check out some other online resources. You may be surprised at what you learn about the field of cybersecurity, and about yourself.
James Terhune is a senior software developer based in Ottawa at Fortinet.