In a society that is increasingly reliant on technology, robust and agile security is essential. This means that there are incredible opportunities for those who are considering this field as a career path. There is an expanding need for experts across many sectors – from the energy industry to education. You can not only help keep businesses safe from threats but as technology progresses, you have the potential to be an innovator in the field.
However, it’s not always clear exactly what skills you need to position yourself as a prime candidate. Not to mention that you also need to understand what abilities will ensure your career sustains momentum after you get started. Beyond technical expertise, some skills can help ensure you reach your full potential.
As the global cybersecurity market is expected to hit $270 billion by 2026, now’s a good time to look at what skills to develop. What attributes can stand you in good stead to make an impact in the industry? How can you best present yourself as a professional worth investing in?
Different employers will have their own preferences for technical certification. The basics, like CompTIA Security+ or Cisco CCNA might get you entry-level positions, but they won’t make you stand out from the crowd. More advanced qualifications such as the Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) Security Expert, or the EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) programs show you have valuable skills to match the growing level of threats. However, in addition to these technical abilities, you’ll also need to develop the so-called soft skills that make you an agile problem solver.
Why? Well, most cybersecurity roles require you to take on challenges that don’t always have predictable outcomes. You’ll be responsible for threat protection, detection, analysis, and neutralization of a frequently changing digital landscape. Cybercriminals are regularly developing new approaches, and you need to be able to adapt to match them. In essence, you need to understand where problems – potential and occurring – lie, and solve them quickly.
It’s not always easy to know how to go about building your problem-solving skills. So, some areas to work on can include:
Black hat operators are always thinking creatively, working with new viruses, techniques, and methods of delivery. This means that you have to be just as creative in developing solutions. Take time to play with current technology, have some fun exploring the limits, features, and flaws in its design. Use it for purposes it wasn’t intended for. This helps you to be more creative about the way you handle issues.
- New Perspectives
In general, skilled problem solvers don’t limit themselves to approaching problems from a single direction. The mind that created the problem is not always going to take a similar approach to the one you would. Take time to mix with people who don’t think the same ways you do, join teams – professionally and recreationally – with those of varying personalities. This helps to develop a mindset that isn’t tied down to the traditional or accepted industry knowledge.
- Critical Thinking
An important element of problem-solving is your ability to analyze and process information about the situation, and this requires robust critical thinking skills. You need to develop a habit of being methodical in gathering information, evaluating the evidence before you, and an awareness of your own biases. There are online courses available in this area, but you can also bolster this with activities such as joining a competitive robotics team or indie game development.
Promoting Your Expertise
As a cybersecurity expert, one of the most valuable skills you need to develop is your ability to maintain solid personal branding. This is particularly vital when you’re developing a career as a cybersecurity consultant, in which it’s difficult to fully illustrate what can seem like an intangible quality – your expertise in your field. You’re essentially asking clients to pay for your experience, your knowledge, and your advice.
When sharing your expertise as a freelancer or consultant, you’re likely to be working on either an hourly fee, a retainer fee, or per project. You can use any of these models to demonstrate how your expertise is a valuable commodity to clients. In your hourly rate breakdowns, you can itemize each service you’ll be providing, showing how much skill goes into your processes. In setting the terms of a retainer or project, you can elaborate on the deliverables – tangible and otherwise – and how they are valuable to the client. Indeed, it can also be important in either case to offer levels of service you can provide, with rising price points for each.
In essence, the skills you need to develop here are those that bolster your sense of worth. It can be difficult to have the confidence to charge fees that truly reflect the value of your expertise and experience. A good step in the right direction is building a portfolio of work. This doesn’t have to be purely professional, it can be personal projects too. Alongside the description of each project, itemize the skills used to create it, the problems that have been solved, the benefits that have been gained. This helps you to quantify even the intangible assets that helped to make those projects a success. Couple this with testimonials from clients, too, as this provides trust signals to show that you’re able to deliver on what you’re selling. You might think your results speak for themselves, but you still need to develop the skills that help you to speak for them too.
We’re living at an exciting time for technology. There’s constant development of platforms and tools, and innovations are occurring with great frequency. However, this also presents a challenge to those seeking a career in cybersecurity. You need to keep demonstrating your ability to adapt to these changes, understand the new threats, and how to counter them.
Certification can be important here. To avoid a skills gap, it’s worth investing in courses that update your current knowledge of systems. Take a look at what the trends are – new threats in cryptocurrency, cloud security breaches, weaknesses in artificial intelligence – and seek out additional certifications that deal specifically with those areas. Seeking out opportunities to be a part of teams that are countering new types of threats can also provide you with opportunities to keep your practical skills fresh.
It can be useful to approach this in a way that helps you understand how these changes in technology disrupt the businesses you’re working with. This can give you insights into what tools can be effective for each challenge, and how they can be adapted. A good example here is the rise of remote working for businesses. While this offers many benefits there are also points of vulnerability.
Remote projects often include the sharing of sensitive data using collaborative tools. Weak home networks can make them an attractive target for breaches. Workers may have downloaded viruses onto home devices that are now connected to the entire business network. You need to apply a critical eye to how technology is changing the world and understand how to adapt accordingly. You have to stay on top of which current tools can counter the emerging issues. Can blockchain be implemented to strengthen the passage of sensitive information over remote networks? Can you utilize artificial intelligence to constantly scan for new threats?
By staying abreast of how the world is changing, you can keep your expertise relevant. Even better; you can be innovative.
Choosing a career in cybersecurity offers the potential to be on the front line of the technology industry. Whether it’s keeping company assets such as cryptocurrency safe, or neutralizing hackers – experts will always be in demand. By developing strong problem-solving skills, learning how to present your professional value, and keeping adaptable, you can be a strong contributor in the field.