Looking for cybersecurity experts? Consider hiring veterans

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Veteran Michael Kassner says former military personnel might know more about cybersecurity than employers think. Read about some of the skills veterans could bring to a cybersecurity job.

American soldier in military uniform preventing cyber attack in military intelligence center. An US officer intercepting messages to stop terrorism. Modern warfare system surveillance concept.

Image: Smederevac, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Something that gladdens the hearts of cybercriminals are tech-media reports that there are not enough cybersecurity pros. For instance, in a May 2020 article from TechRepublic contributing writer Esther Shein about how to find a job in cybersecurity, she stated: “While there are an estimated 2.8 million cybersecurity professionals, ‘it would take a 145% increase in the number of these professionals in order to fill the current estimated need for 4.07 million cybersecurity professionals,’ according to the latest Cybersecurity Workforce Study from (ISC)2.”

There may be a way to improve the odds. The US Government Accountability Office reports that, according to the Department of Defense, more than 200,000 members of the US military transition from active duty to civilian life annually, and smart people are suggesting this pool of men and women, who are versed in defensive tactics and accustomed to continuous training, might be a welcome resource.

SEE: Hiring Kit: Cybersecurity Engineer (TechRepublic Premium)

What’s more, veterans are trusted with advanced technology and understand that keeping it secure is a priority. “Today’s military networks contain so much sensitive information they’re often classified as weapons systems in order to ensure the utmost level of protection,” writes Matt Cates in his G.I.Jobs article, “Cybersecurity Jobs for Veterans.” Military members in all branches and across nearly every career work on computers linked to these very same weaponized networks. 

Working in a secure environment, Cates said, gives service personnel–even those not working in IT–an advantage. “Every military member receives mandatory training, including courses on information security,” Cates said. “It becomes almost second nature to be on the lookout for suspicious emails, to be cautious when using external storage devices, and to have situational awareness when discussing sensitive information.”

Why veterans skills don’t always match civilian job requirements

Many proponents of using ex-military personnel to help secure civilian networks agree with Cates’ belief that being in the military helps develop soft skills, such as proactivity, analytical thinking and problem solving, and diligence to ensure work will continue unimpeded. Cates pointed out that all of those attributes transfer nicely to defending a company’s digital infrastructure. 

However, these skills are often poorly translated to employers. “While in the military, service members often lead in roles that closely mirror jobs in the civilian workforce, their resumes fail to describe their responsibilities in civilian terminology, their experience can get lost in translation on resumes or in job interviews,” said Chris Presley, a former US Army specialist in cryptography, and a security engineer at WhiteHat Security, in Cates’ article.

Veterans still need training in cybersecurity

Dana Hawkins, director of security services at Proficio, served in the Navy and California Air National Guard. He mentioned another challenge facing military personnel looking for positions in cybersecurity.  

“The biggest challenge for transitioning veterans will be getting up to speed on newer technologies,” Hawkins said. “The technology that most soldiers use is three to five years behind their civilian counterparts.”

Where can veterans get cybersecurity training?

Wanting this to be a win-win situation for both ex-military personnel and companies, organizations are beginning to provide the necessary training to get them up to speed.

“Organizations such as CyberVets USA offer free online training, certification and employment opportunities to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard members, and reservists, as well as military spouses looking to enter the cyber workforce,” said Frank Ohlhorst in his Dice article, “Veterans: Best Solution to the Cybersecurity Shortage?” “Government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security are also offering programs to help veterans launch careers in cybersecurity.”

Veterans can find additional training resources at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veteran Readiness and Employment programInstitute for Veterans and Military Families and Hire Heroes USA, as well as other nonprofit agencies that help veterans find post-military employment.

Vendors are also joining the trend:

My own post-military journey

As a veteran, I am grateful that I learned a number of soft skills that were paramount in the military and helped me overcome obstacles. Soft skills are invaluable to current cybersecurity professionals and those aspiring to enter the field and could give your employer an advantage in the ongoing cyberwar. 

For more related coverage, check out these TechRepublic articles: Veterans and military spouses use telework training program to find portable jobsWhy military veterans might be key to closing the cybersecurity jobs gapVeteran talks about her journey from the military to a successful IT careerAI can help veterans transition to civilian workforce, and Veterans training program helping to fill manufacturing skills gap.

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