According to a study by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education, there will be a shortage of 1.8 million information security workers by 2022. With the increased specialization of security threats and the speed with which weaponized code and malware can adjust, there has never been a greater need for smart, dedicated professionals to join the frontlines of cybersecurity. It’s is a job for puzzle-solvers, quick-thinkers and those who love chasing down challenges. If any of those qualities resonate, then a career in cybersecurity might be for you. Here are a few tips on succeeding in the field.
Get hands-on experience. A textbook can’t replace practical experience. Internships and work study programs offer on-the-job training in cybersecurity strategy that regular courses cannot provide. When choosing a program, elect for one that incorporates hands-on learning.
Stay flexible. A role in cybersecurity calls for quick action and adaptability. Threats don’t follow a schedule—they can turn into an attack within minutes and that same threat can mutate into a completely different issue just as quickly. You need to be on high-alert and ready to shift along with the circumstances.
Be reasonable. Security decisions ultimately fall on what’s best for the business. The key is to balance risk and practicality. The most secure network would be a closed system in a dark, locked room somewhere, but that isn’t useful to anyone. Instead we should ask, “Is the risk a greater threat to the company than the functionality benefits the business?” It’s a realism that isn’t always black and white—sometimes there will be a clear hierarchy of what needs protecting vs. what doesn’t, and sometimes it won’t be as simple. There is no perfect formula for determining priorities – make risk-based decisions.
Get business savvy. It used to be that only IT people went into cybersecurity, but that isn’t the case anymore. In fact, my MBA proved to be a huge advantage when I first entered the field. An understanding of business allows you to see the bigger picture and communicate security priorities effectively with employees, the C-Suite and the board.
Take online trainings and certification tests. Learning is a lifelong pursuit. Make yourself a better candidate and employee by becoming CISSP certified. ISC2, ISACA and SANS offer a variety of certifications for all levels of security professionals. I recommend supplementing your education with other trainings. I still take training courses and am currently taking one from the National Association of Corporate Directors to ensure I’m thinking and communicating in terms that help elevate Juniper’s security program.
A career in cybersecurity is as challenging as it is rewarding. Just as the job requires flexibility, it also lends itself to a flexible schedule, allowing me to raise a family while pursuing the career I love. Every day offers a new problem to solve and important decision to be made. It’s a rapidly evolving field, and the excitement never ends.