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Starting a Career in Cybersecurity

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A career in cybersecurity is what many desire today. We frequently see adverts telling of the many vacancies and substantial financial incentives in cybersecurity, and many are asking how they can be part of the story. Today, my purpose is to contribute to the wisdom already available to navigate getting into this industry.

I always wanted to understand how to keep computers secure. I didn’t have anyone I could ask while growing up in Kenya. I saw computers replace my mother’s typewriter. That might reveal how many decades I have breathed on earth. I didn’t didn't know anyone working in IT. I grew up knowing that you were either to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer or accountant. My first degree is in Accounting and Management. I loathed it.

I was in my 40s when I finally chose to get into cybersecurity. Yeah, just in case you thought career changes are only for millennials, please rethink. The world we live in is not limited, and I believe that nothing is impossible. In 2017 I sat for different certifications and began job hunting. I applied for over 200 jobs over six months, finally getting employed in July 2018. I applied for everything and anything that mentioned cybersecurity. I just wanted to break into the industry.

What tips do I have to offer one seeking to move into cybersecurity?

1. Understand that you have transferable skills. See your past roles as having prepared you for this stage of life. Don’t be deceived into thinking that your previous roles cannot prepare you for this industry. Every prospective employer needs the skills you have to offer. Don’t hide them. Showcase them.

2. Study. Certifications are a necessary evil. They help show your passion. I use certificates to demonstrate the skills I have acquired. Build a home lab. Use the home lab to learn and keep learning. Understand the difference between blue, red and purple teaming. Listen to podcasts to help increase your breadth of knowledge. Have a study plan for the day, week, month and year. Understand the latest threats.

3. Network. Cybersecurity is not a one-person role. We are to connect to draw strengths and help develop one another. Networking enables you to become better and opens new doors either of opportunities and also of thought. Don’t walk the journey alone. We need each other today more than ever.

4. Life is not a sprint but a marathon. A career in cybersecurity requires endurance. Develop the capacity to handle rejection. Understand that rejection is simply redirection. Have long term goals as well as short term steps to achieve life goals.

5. Don’t be driven by money. Your motive will float to the top. Every employer, mentor and leader look for dedicated persons motivated by an inner hunger to excel at their craft and not monetary reasons. Let money be a reward, not an end goal.

In conclusion, enjoy the journey. Getting a job is not a destination. It’s a chapter. Write the story and let the world marvel at the gift you are to the world. Live for a legacy that makes an impact and makes this world a better place.

About The Author: Charles Karanja is a passionate cybersecurity professional who resides in Cambridge UK. In his current role, he is focused on incident response and management.

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