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Customer Support: A Non Traditional Job in Cyber Security

I have been a Blue Teamer since the beginning of my cybersecurity career. I've worked in both the finance and healthcare sectors. Burnout is real. As a network security engineer for a healthcare network, I was on high alert at all times. Working to ensure we did not have security gaps and monitoring for signs of breaches, ransomware etc was incredibly stressful. After 4 years, I had reached my breaking point. It was time to find a less stressful job. This had to be done, for both my physical and mental health.

On a whim, I applied for a customer support position with a software company (SCYTHE). I had taken SCYTHE’s Purple Team Workshop and was familiar with the company and the software (used in the workshop). I was intrigued with the concept of adversary emulation and Purple Teams. I felt that learning about Purple teaming, CTI and adversary emulation could also be useful in my career. Most important, the job was a lower stress position that what I had.

SCYTHE offered me the job.

When deciding whether or not to accept the position, a few thoughts came to mind.

  • Was I moving out of cyber security?

  • Was I taking a step backward by going from a Network Security Engineer to a Customer Support Specialist ?

  • Would this move hurt my career?

I knew I needed to make a change and accepted the position. I have been with the company for a year and a half.

As it turns out, I never left cyber security. I simply moved to a behind the scenes position. Instead of using the security software to protect my network, I have become part of the product creation and improvement process. I was also given the opportunity to learn from coworkers who are experts in areas of cyber security that I lack in.I learn something new every day.

I am on the Product and Development team at SCYTHE. My main priority is to provide support to our customers. To ensure any questions or issues are responded to & quickly resolved. I am also the voice of the customer. If a customer has a suggestion for improvement or a feature request, it is my responsibility to convey that to the team.

I pride myself on the support that I provide to both customers and team mates. I take this job very seriously. Customer support is not all that I do. I have several responsibilities:

  • I am the technical writer for SCYTHE's public documentation (customer guides, knowledge base articles and internal documentation).

  • I provide support for SCYTHE's Purple Team workshops.

  • Perform testing on new releases.

  • Provide my own suggestions for improving the software and processes (both internal & customer facing).

What is required to do this job?

This is not a job that can be done with no IT experience. I started my IT career on the help desk. In fact, I WAS the help desk. As the only PC Technician for a small manufacturing company, I took care of all help desk requests. As I progressed in my career and pivoted into cybersecurity, I was still “working the help desk.” The main difference was that more specialized and complicated problems came my way. My days of replacing monitors and updating Windows machines were over!

You may be thinking, “Come on Elaine, anyone can work a customer support job.”

True, anyone can work a customer support job but not everyone can do it well. Particularly when working for a software vendor in the cybersecurity arena.

Each cyber security customer support position may have different requirements. Below are my suggestions on how to be a successful customer support professional. They are gleaned from my experiences.

  1. Previous experience working with customers.

    1. Working in the service industry trains you for all types of people and attitudes. It also forces you to learn patience. I was a server, bartender, cashier and worked in hotels in my previous lives.

  2. The ability to connect with people and genuinely care about them is critical.

    1. If you care about your customers and work to quickly resolve their issues, it will reflect back on both you and your company.

  3. Get to know your customers.

    1. They appreciate when you remember details that you may have talked about in previous interactions.

  4. Experience working a technical help desk.

    1. You will learn how to properly troubleshoot issues.

    2. Basic knowledge of computers and networking is necessary. More advanced knowledge is best.

  5. You do not need to be an expert in cyber security concepts but you do need some knowledge of them.

  6. Communication skills are a must, both written and spoken.

    1. The ability to clearly communicate with both technical and non technical people is important.

    2. You will be the in between for the customer and engineers or other departments. You have to be able to communicate with everyone involved and ensure they all understand the issue and resolution.

  7. Be comfortable on camera.

    1. There will be many screen share calls with your customers.

  8. Ask for help. If you don’t understand something, find someone to teach you.

  9. Stay up to date on cyber security news, breaches, etc.

Why do I love my job?

Every day, I learn something new. I work with many amazing, knowledgeable people who are experts in areas that I am not. If I ask someone for help or a demonstration, they do it without hesitation.

The fact that I help customers learn and use their software to it’s full potential, brings me joy. I am making their day a little better by resolving an issue they may have been frustrated with.

We have a fantastic company culture. The executives are vested in our well being and that includes them promoting us taking mental health days. They know that we will work better if we are not stressed about our personal lives and everything that goes with that. We are also allowed to be our selves. Tattoos and purple hair? They don't care!

Compared to previous jobs, this is a low stress job for me. After working as a network security engineer & a network administrator, I really appreciate this. I don’t get texts or calls at night or on weekends. I don’t have to work into the wee hours of the night and miss activities with my family. I am not always worrying that my organization will get hit with Ransomware. My mental and physical health have improved immensely.

I hope that I have been able to open another door for those of you who want to work in cyber security. If you have any questions please find me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

About the Author: Elaine Harrison-Neukirch has over 10 years of experience in cyber security working in the healthcare and financial services industries. She currently runs the customer support program at SCYTHE. Elaine advocates for women in cybersecurity; she is a member of both Women in Cybersecurity and Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu. She is also Education Director for Cyber Security Non Profit ( Elaine has recently done talks for Wild West Hack Fest, Day of Shecurity and WiCyS.


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