Interested in pursuing a cybersecurity career? The skills you need might not be what you think.
“Everything will grow, but the dramatic demand will be for digital strategists, and that’s what our master’s program is designed to prepare for,” said Mansur Hasib, program chair, cybersecurity technology program at the University of Maryland University College. “We have a huge leadership problem. When you look at all the breaches, it may appear as if it was a technology issue, but it was almost always never the technology. It was government leadership and strategy that was lacking.”
According to a study by Intel Security and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, 82 percent of IT decision-makers surveyed reported a lack of cybersecurity skills within their organizations. The same study cited 209,000 cybersecurity jobs remained unfilled in 2015. And while some organizations are focused on hiring more ‘tech jockeys’ Hasib shifts that focus.
“If you look at the MBA schools, where we’re trying to prepare executives for organizations, most MBA curriculum does not even tackle IT strategy,” said Hasib. “It’s primarily financial strategy, is what they’re teaching.” IT and cybersecurity programs, on the other hand, aren’t teaching business, notes Hasib. That creates a gap.
“Cybersecurity is often misunderstood – it is so interdisciplinary that anybody can enter the cybersecurity field,” said Hasib. “We will need politicians, we will need psychologists, we need lawyers, we need political scientists, we need sociologists – all kinds of people in the field. The first thing to help people understand is that it is an interdisciplinary field.”
The focus is often on specific IT skills or certifications. But the skills it takes to be successful are much different.
“It doesn’t matter what your prior background is,” said Hasib. “If you want to work in this field, you can.”
What does he mean by that? It’s important recruiters look for soft skills like leadership and teachability, not just technical. aptitude.
“Technology is changing so fast, that you shouldn’t be looking for specific technology skills,” said Hasib. “See what the person can learn. Does the person have the capacity for perpetual, perennial learning? Because without that, you will never make it.”
A word for hiring managers
“Many of the hiring people are looking for such specific skills – literally purple squirrels – and advertising such low pay, that it becomes very hard for them to attract the right people,” said Hasib.
Hasib shares more about how the government can attract candidates, and why the government recruitment process is so cumbersome in his podcast. Listen at the link above.