...You Can Be There Too
Cybersecurity is a fast-growing industry with great opportunities and a huge gap in skills. It is one of the most fields in demand right now, with a vast array of specialties to choose from. The amazing part of the world of cybersecurity is that you do not necessarily need an IT background to be a cybersecurity practitioner. I am a perfect example to confidently attest to the fact that one can have a successful career in cybersecurity with no technical background. I used to think it was impossible to achieve certain things in this world until I transitioned into cybersecurity as a non-technical person.
There are many paths to pursue based on your interest and skill set, which should not necessarily be technical. Cybersecurity is so much more than hacking and monitoring systems. With my experience so far, I can confidently say that cybersecurity is a “people” job. It is a field comprising different disciplines and best practices to safeguard the integrity, availability, and confidentiality of networks, systems, and information. There are many cyber soft skills, your ability to communicate (both verbal and written), present, understand, and solve problems, your management skills, leadership skills, and creativity are all reasonable paths to a cyber-career. You need to know that in cyber security, there is something for everyone.
In my opinion, having a non-technical experience is an added advantage to the industry because a person with zero IT background is likely to bring so much dedication, passion, determination, and commitment to the table, and to me, this is an excellent start. To be a cybersecurity practitioner means you must have the passion and time to learn and understand how information technology works. The key here is your willingness and desire to stay updated on technology trends. Never consider that your non-IT background puts you at a disadvantage to get into cybersecurity. We all must start somewhere and there is always a first time for something. With a positive attitude, you will be fine. Even the greatest was once a beginner, don’t be afraid to take that step.
If you are considering cybersecurity as a new career path, here are some basic tips and personal experiences I want to share with you as a cybersecurity enthusiast who started with zero IT background.
Know where you are going
You do not want to venture into something you have little knowledge of. According to John Updike, “the only way to get to somewhere you know, is to figure out where you are going before you go there”, and so knowing and understanding the cybersecurity world is very essential. I would advise you to do thorough research on everything about cybersecurity. If you are changing into a career, don’t rush; take your time and explore. Go online and gain as much information as you would need. Know the technical and the non-technical areas of cybersecurity. Talk to people, speak to professionals in the field, and you would be amazed to know that many professionals or experts started with no IT background.
Your Willingness to Learn
In this 21st century, money shouldn't be a barrier to acquiring knowledge when getting into the cybersecurity space. There are resources and free online courses all over the internet you can enroll in. You can visit many educational websites such as YouTube, Udemy, Allison, Coursera, cybrary, TryHackMe, among others where you can be awarded badges or certificates, and this can go a long way to bolster your credentials. Some may come at a fee, which I believe you can afford. If you don’t have time and can’t afford a degree, this is the trick: you need to set up your own study pace, create a timetable and enrol yourself in any of the above educational websites mentioned, and don't forget to learn a lot. Do not understand everything at a go. Take it slowly and as you progress, everything will make sense.
Network and Get Yourself a Mentor
After your enrolment, the next thing you might consider is networking. Connect with diverse cybersecurity professionals as many as you can, both online and in person. Visit LinkedIn, recreate your profile, and connect over there. Again, make it a habit to attend conferences, webinars and if possible, join cyber communities. You need to invest in your social capital because one good contact can result in your next cybersecurity position or job. Do not joke about your social capital. It was at the point of building the social capital that I discovered most experts had no technical background, and this became an inspiration to bolster my confidence. Therefore, you need to leverage the relationship in this space for your good.
You cannot be your best self without a mentor. It is a new career path you are venturing into, and you need someone experienced to coach and groom you. Identify whom you would like to be mentored first before you request him or her to be your mentor. You need a mentor with good leadership skills, who is selfless, knowledgeable, and willing to impart knowledge, and ready to help you succeed. You need a mentor who will complement your weakness. Every weakness should be overcome by someone’s strength. And to be a great mentee, listen, observe, and learn. Do not let humility be far away from you, because you cannot be perfected without being corrected.
Build on your Personal Brand
It is not enough to be good at what you do, it is essential to be visible as well. I call this personal branding. It is your new career and so people must identify you with what you do and what you are good at. Know your career vision, know exactly where you need to be, and move along with it. Establish a presence because personal branding can open doors for you. To build your personal branding, you must know your strengths in the industry, you must build on your knowledge asset, be emotionally intelligent, discover what you are passionate about, and know your purpose.
Apply for Internship Programs
Being an intern can help you quickly identify your area of interest because it exposes you to real-world experience, and you can also know which area interests you the most. You need to focus on what interests you so you can gain mastery over it through the internship. If it must be an unpaid internship, go for it. Another smart way to gain experience is through volunteering, and this can also help in enhancing your CV. Let me leave this with you, “Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning” - Thomas Edison.
Certification is as important as gaining experience because certification will get you the interview and experience will get you the job. Start with an entry-level certification like CompTIA security+ and choose a secondary certification based on your career path. Obtaining certifications shows that you have specific skills or knowledge in what you do and so it’s advisable to find your passion or interest.
I would like to conclude with this, it is tough everywhere, but the only difference is you. If you want to be in the cyber-space, go for it and make it happen. Do not be afraid to switch to a new field that interests you. Everything non-IT you know will eventually pay off in your career path. All you need is tenacity and the willingness to learn. Develop the “Whatever it takes” mindset. Do not forget this, if you want to know how well you are doing in your new career path, you need to open yourself up to feedback. This will help you assess yourself and know how well you are performing in the industry. Do not forget that the goal here is to gain mastery. You are just starting, and you will need feedback to track your progress and so see feedback as a gift.
Author: Abigail Dede Okley | Associate Consultant, Information Security @Innovare | Alumnus, Inveteck Global | Member, IIPGH
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