One of the questions that I often get asked for is advice for starting a career in cybersecurity. This may seem like a simple question, and on the face of it seems pretty straightforward to answer. Well I almost always counter this question with my own, which area of security do you want to start out in?
Diversity of Cybersecurity
Many seem to either lose the realisation, or may not even be aware, that cybersecurity is diverse with many different areas and roles to it. You have roles from things such as physical security, to the well know (and often highly regarded) penetration testing, to auditing and compliance. These different areas all require different skills. So it is important to understand which area interests you the most. Hence why I almost always start out with my question above. This allows you to focus your attention and energy on gaining the necessary skills and knowledge that are important for that specific area of cybersecurity.
Another common mistake is that many assume you have to decide which area you are interested in, and have to make completely sure that it’s the right choice because you will be stuck with it forever. One of the great benefits of cybersecurity, is just how easy it is to move across the different areas of it. My advice, try identify the area that calls out to you the most, but don’t worry if you find it’s actually not something that you are passionate and interested in. You tried, and you can then simply find another area that you are passionate and interested in. Moving about, while something you potentially want to avoid doing often, is not unheard of in the industry and is perhaps more common than you may think.
The very next recommendation that I give is to start engaging with the community. An excellent way of doing this is by making use of Twitter. Granted there are a lot of negative elements of Twitter (primarily the toxicity that unfortunately is present), but personally I believe the benefits far outweigh the negative aspects of it. I’ve personally gained from it, both in terms of my own career as well as forging new relationships. In fact Twitter is the very reason that The Beer Farmers exist! It is also an excellent tool to share ideas and knowledge as well as staying up to date with the latest news and trends. Start off small, it’s perfectly fine to just sit back and follow initially. But to really get noticed, start engaging (in a respectful manner) with conversations (after all this is the whole point of a community and social media). But above be patient, these things take time for almost all of us.
Building Your Own Brand
This is another really important aspect, building your own name or brand. This will help you get your foot in the door so to speak. One tool that you can do to help with this is create your own blog. Use this to share your own thoughts, opinions as well as technical knowledge. This will become really powerful when it comes to apply for roles. This helps to not only showcase your knowledge and skills, but also your own people and communication skills. This can go really well with combining this with your presence on social media. Troy Hunt did an excellent talk about this, so I highly recommend taking a look at it. He gives some really great advice in it.
This is perhaps the hardest part of it all. Unfortunately gaining the appropriate skills, building your own brand/profile all takes time. For some it is quicker than others. There will be hurdles along the way. It will be challenging. And it will take time. But it is important to persist at it, reach out for support and guidance. And most of all try have fun along the way. View it as a start of a journey, not a slog.