Career Insight

How to Get Into Cybersecurity

Two female cybersecurity professionals working between server stacks

Among all of the fields in technology, cybersecurity is one of the industries on the fastest rise to prominence. With the mass amount of communication conducted through devices, data housed within complex software systems, and security patches constantly evolving, the need for cybersecurity experts has never been more important.

Cybersecurity specialists are nothing short of superheroes of the tech world. They’re the people behind the scenes making sure companies are kept safe from the relentless cybercriminals trying to infiltrate data systems and decimate a companies network security.

Maybe the idea of protecting people from cybercriminals piques your interest. Perhaps you’re looking for a new challenge? Or you could be looking for an overhaul of your career. Regardless of your motive, cybersecurity is a field that keeps expanding. And with a little more information, you can get your foot in the door.

So how do you get into the cybersecurity industry?

Well, let’s start at the top…

Defining the Field

According to the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, “Cybersecurity is the art of protecting networks, devices, and data from unauthorized access or criminal use and the practice of ensuring confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information.” In other words, whenever you take steps to protect a system or network from cyberattacks, you are practicing cybersecurity.

Apart from what you see on the news or read in the paper, cybersecurity is much more than installing a state-of-the-art antivirus or updating the company’s policy on answering phishy emails (shameless pun). In this field, different disciplines and best practices help ensure the safety and reliability of digital systems and networks.

We Need It

Because we live in a data-centric, computerized world, there are people out there who spend every waking minute trying to compromise the integrity of any technology that may contain sensitive information. From social media accounts and online gaming to credit card numbers and the documents you keep on your personal computers — all require requisite information to access. A breach of this data could expose classified information that could prove to be detrimental to a person or company’s reputation, can result in financial ruin, or compromise sensitive documents.

Starting Line

Cybersecurity is an extremely diverse field. People get into cybersecurity through several different avenues whether it’s math, computer science, criminal justice, or even history. What all of these share in common is a growing fascination with the intricacies of technology and its continuous evolution. This interest is what makes a person in cybersecurity good at their job.

For Those With a Technical Background

As you can imagine, coming into the cybersecurity field with technical experience is a great jumping-off point and shortens your learning curve. Equipped with those skills enables you to recognize and analyze various aspects of technology quicker than you would without a technical background.

Jobs in software engineering, web development, and programming are positions with applied skills that cross over with a cybersecurity role. In any of the previously mentioned roles, tech aficionados are more apt to do things like spot irregular and malicious code or create software patches that reinforce a data system when a vulnerability is found.

Technical backgrounds don’t always mean you’ve had on-the-job experience. In some cases, your background could be the result of obtaining a college degree or a program completion at a tech school like Kenzie Academy. For others, technical skills are honed by way of a hobby. Regardless of how you obtain your skills, having them can shorten your path to becoming a cybersecurity professional.

And for Those Without

While it helps to have a technical background — not having one isn’t a drawback. There are several jobs you can pursue that don’t require them. Positions like technical writer and network administrator are wonderful places to get a start and your foot in the door while you gather the knowledge to move forward.

Everyone has to start somewhere. Without foundational skills like coding and development, you’ll want to find a preposition where you can begin learning firsthand the ins and outs of how a database system works along with the nuts and bolts that make it go. But we stress, certain coding or development skills won’t be called upon when you’re trying to land an entry-level job.

The combination of on-the-job experience and foundational technical skills is what can propel you from entry-level to mid-to-senior level positions. That’s why you may want to pursue a tech education with an emphasis on cybersecurity to gain those in-demand technical skills.

Stockpile of Skills

It isn’t just having refined technical skills that make for a great cybersecurity employee. You need a mix of what are known as hard skills and soft skills.

Hard Skills

It is vital to understand computer networks or how computers communicate with each other to prevent or reduce the risk of cyberattacks. For every job you’ll find in cybersecurity, this knowledge is absolutely paramount.

Though knowing programming languages isn’t exactly mandatory, many cybersecurity experts still carry a general proficiency in them. With so many different languages available, you don’t need to take the time to learn them all, but brushing up on the more popular languages like Java, Python, Ruby, and C# certainly makes a resume attract attention.

A few more hard skills you add to your collection include the following:

  • Computer architecture
  • Intrusion detection
  • Identity and access management
  • Audit and compliance
  • Operating systems knowledge (i.e. Windows, Linux)
  • Antivirus and anti-malware techniques and software
  • Data and cryptography
  • Cloud computing

Soft Skills

Much of the work in cybersecurity is performed in the digital arena. But the job is much more than what’s happening within software and screens. Up and coming cybersecurity pros can expect to spend a significant amount of time interacting with other people.

Contrary to what you may have heard, cybersecurity is as much people-focused as tech-focused. More often than not, cybersecurity professionals work in a team setting, interacting with people to understand how devices work and monitoring their performance in real-time.

In addition to job functions, people in this field will attend training sessions on best practices, disaster contingency plans, safety precautions, and much more. You have to communicate clearly when you interact with your team, report information to non-technical individuals, or work with them to troubleshoot and resolve problems.

In addition to well-developed communication skills, other awesome soft skills include the following:

  • Problem-solving
  • Collaboration
  • Curiosity
  • Accountability
  • Project management
  • Business acumen
  • Passion
  • Creativity
  • Leadership

How to Land a Job

Whether you’ve procured a college degree or finished a cybersecurity certificate program, it’s time to polish the soft skills we talked about — especially your ability to communicate and network.

The cybersecurity community is as vast as the ones we see in the software and web development fields. To find your way, it’s beneficial that you reach out to other members of the industry. Making contacts, joining forums and groups, attending conferences, and asking questions are some of the best ways to find potential jobs in waiting. By being active, job recruiters will have an easier time finding you.

Your ability to communicate also comes into play when you’re speaking with already established cybersecurity professionals. These people can give you insight into what a day looks like for someone working in cybersecurity. They can help you prepare you for the future by helping you formulate resumes and answers to industry-specific interview questions. Let your curiosity and drive push you to reach out to invaluable resources. You can’t beat advice from someone on the inside.

Take the Challenge

A career in cybersecurity is rewarding! You become part of a community that works diligently to protect people and enterprises from falling victim to cyber threats. If you’re interested in this type of career path, contact Kenzie Academy to learn more about how we can help you prepare to work in cybersecurity.

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