Written by Anthony Webb, VP International, A10 Networks
Back in 2019, I wrote an article about the talent shortfall in technology and cybersecurity and unfortunately since the pandemic and because of Brexit that gap, particularly here in the UK, has only widened. As of 2021, the global talent shortage already amounts to 40 million skilled workers worldwide. By 2030, the global talent shortage is predicted to reach 85.2 million workers.
This means that companies worldwide risk losing $8.4 trillion in revenue because of the lack of skilled talent. This gap is keenly felt in security and again there is currently a shortage of 350,000+ cybersecurity specialists in Europe alone.
I firmly believe that today’s culture of security will only be as strong as tomorrow’s talent. And as the talent gap continues, companies need to get creative about how and where they find the next cyber expert.
No recognised career path
While the cybersecurity industry is a fantastic and dynamic place to work, unfortunately there is no recognised career path. Therefore, vendors need to do more to attract young talent into the sector. This industry has very low unemployment, and as mentioned above, many countries have a deficit of employees. It is a very fast-moving and exciting industry, but sometimes I feel like a lone crusader when I talk about the benefits of this industry to younger people. It’s true that many are not aware the industry exists as a career option.
I think this is because there are no specific university degrees in cybersecurity, so it is not viewed as a natural career choice to pursue. However, I did see that the NCSC has just started to offer degree apprenticeships in cyber, but it is the only certified degree apprenticeship in England and Wales Bursary and Degree Apprenticeship – NCSC.GOV.UK.
The NCSC CyberFirst programme is designed to help young people explore their passion for tech by introducing them to cybersecurity. CyberFirst covers a broad range of activities and offers a bursary to financially support undergraduates through university in a subject of their choice, in addition to a cybersecurity degree apprenticeship scheme.
This is fantastic, but the industry needs to do more, such as partnering with local schools and funding more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programmes. We need to create more internship and apprenticeship opportunities for early talent – like the NCSC programme – and in addition vendors should look at launching robust upskilling or retraining initiatives internally.
Passionate problem solvers
In terms of the key attributes this profession requires, anyone looking towards a career in cybersecurity needs to be able to thrive in an environment that is dynamic and fast moving. This is a sector that is critical to the UK economy and to the daily lives of people up and down the country.
Therefore, you need to be calm under pressure, lateral thinkers, versatile and a bit of a problem solver. It’s the same as any industry; police officers have chosen that career path through a desire to protect the public. Cybersecurity professionals are passionate about protecting the infrastructure of nations and enterprises. You will have an important job to do, but an exhilarating one too. Because without even thinking about it, people, businesses and institutions all over the UK are relying on the team that defends our digital world.
In terms of other skills, cybersecurity professionals need to be able to simplify complex issues and communicate in layman’s terms. This means that anyone in the organisation – from the board to the receptionist – can understand how to protect the business.
High stakes, high rewards
Today, we live in a world where our phones are rarely out of our hands and our laptops make every task easy. Since the pandemic we’ve gone online for just about everything and this means we are exposing more data than ever. This reliance on technology makes it so important to protect it and this is an industry where the stakes are high, especially if a customer is breached, we’ve all read the unfortunate headlines that this creates. Having said that, anyone working in the industry will know the rewards are also high. Cybersecurity professionals have the opportunity to not only solve problems but use technology for good.
The pandemic has shone a light on the escalating threat landscape in all professions, and the implications if a credit card is compromised, or if someone clicks on a phishing link. Hackers can earn more money than ever, so the cybersecurity industry needs to respond with innovative people interested in growing their career and who can think like a cybercriminal. It’s a game of cat and mouse; the more hackers we face, the smarter security professionals we need.
There are many routes to explore so where should someone interested in a career in cyber start?
I would recommend that any young person gets as much varied experience as possible. In today’s work environment, the days of working for one company for your entire career are over. Likewise, the cybersecurity industry needs to do a better job at educating and informing those about to enter the workforce about careers in cybersecurity.
Resources like the NCSC provide more information about cyber apprenticeships, and hopefully in the near term we will start to see other similar initiatives. Additionally, I’m a real advocate for experiencing as much as you can; if you get offered an assignment abroad, grasp it with both hands. You’ll become more rounded in learning how different cultures deal with data protection and cybersecurity trends.
My advice is to learn as much as you can. It may sound clichéd, but it is a profession that requires you to be constantly studying and improving yourself. Begin with trying to spark an interest in the industry through online learning, reading books, and even reading the security-related news. From here, you will start to see if the whole idea behind cybersecurity is something you are interested in and want to pursue as a career.
And remember, always be humble and above all be passionate about what you do. Technology will always find a way to solve a cybersecurity problem.