With cybercrimes increasing in frequency and severity, the demand for cyber security professionals has never been higher. If you’ve been thinking about a career in cyber security, the time is now. Research shows that cyber security job postings have grown by 94% in the last six years, while studies are finding an estimated 1.8 million cyber security jobs will go unfulfilled in 2022. There’s a cyber talent shortage, and this has highlighted another problem – the lack of diversity in cyber security. Despite the growing need for cyber professionals, many groups continue to be underrepresented in the field including women, Black, Indigenous People of Colour (BIPOC), and neurodivergent people.
To celebrate Cyber Security Awareness Month this October, we’re smashing the cyber stereotypes and encouraging people of all backgrounds to pursue a career in cyber security. We turned to the experts from Kinetic IT’s PROTECT+ team – Director of Security Services Vannessa Van Beek and Head of Security Services Kevin O’Sullivan – to share their insights on diversity in cyber and their top tips for pursuing a career in cyber security. From embracing your unique talents, to committing to continuous learning, here are 7 tips to jumpstart your career in cyber security – and be part of the diverse cyber workforce of the future.
1. Commit to continuous learning
Just like any job, a career in cyber security is about perpetual learning. No one is an expert right out of the gate, and everyone has something new to learn – even the experts. If you’re curious and willing to embark on a lifetime of learning, a career in cyber security is for you.
“My career into cyber was not planned,” says Vanessa. “I knew this was a growing field and I was looking for a new challenge. I had a steep learning curve to understand security technology and be able to translate that into business terms for tenders and customer conversations.”
Vannessa found the key was to dive in headfirst. “I immersed myself in several projects and tenders. Through lots of reading, I was able to contribute, and my confidence grew.”
“What’s really important in cyber security is investing in crew and creating a learning culture,” says Vannessa. “It’s like learning a trade. Success in this field requires intelligent crew and powerful technology and ways of working. It also requires a commitment to continuous learning – we cannot think the knowledge we have today is good enough for tomorrow.”
2. Embrace your unique talents
A career in cyber security is often characterised by technical skills. However, diverse talents and experiences are just as essential as technical capabilities for a strong and successful cyber security team.
“There are so many career opportunities in the ICT sector that are not only about technology, and recognising this is important,” says Kevin.
Vannessa agrees: “It’s not just technical learning. We also need to broaden business acumen, and our skills around communication, critical thinking, and teamwork. It’s the people side of this work I love most. I enjoy the relationships with our customers and with the team.”
Diversity is your strength
When highlighting the importance of diversity in cyber security, Vannessa says: “Hackers don’t discriminate, and neither should we. Organisations need diversity in thought, experience, education, culture, gender, and interests. Our individual and cultural differences are our defining strength.”
Kevin agrees: “There has been a lot of research on diversity across many of the Fortune 500 companies, with the key finding being that organisations with more diversity outperformed less diverse companies over the last five years. Studies have also shown that organisations with more diverse teams have above-average profitability, avoid more errors, and have less turnover.”
“From my experience, diversity of thought and lived experiences across varied genders, ages, and ethnicities, leads to more creative ways of working. Promoting different perspectives brings unique ideas across the teams and both our crew and customers benefit from this. We all think differently, and when we collaborate, amazing things happen.”
Where could a career in cyber security take you?
There is a huge variety of roles across the cyber security industry and it’s a great career for all types of skills and interests. Vannessa says her PROTECT+ team all have diverse talents, expertise, and life experiences. “We have architects, engineers, security intelligence analysts, threat detection specialists, engineers, developers, consultants, and process specialists. They’re all united with a purpose – to protect information and physical assets and defend organisations from cyber threats and privacy breaches. It’s courageous work, as the threat landscape is constantly changing, and what was once secure can become vulnerable.”
3. Be bold
While a career in cyber security can be highly rewarding, it can also be very demanding for anyone. It’s also no secret that underrepresented groups, such as women and BIPOC, face extra challenges in pursuing a career in cyber security and tech. Vannessa encourages anyone thinking about a career in cyber security to be bold and be part of the change to diverse teams.
“Most of my career I have been outnumbered in meetings by men, and most of the time it hasn’t been an issue. I have felt like I was part of the team. That’s not to say diversity is not important – it is. But it does show that with the right culture – even if it’s not yet perfectly diverse – it’s still worth getting involved in the change to create more diverse teams. Don’t let this be a barrier to joining ICT and cyber security teams.”
4. Seek out networking and mentoring opportunities
When navigating a career in cyber security, it’s important to find a network of support in the industry. You can join industry groups and attend courses to help make connections or seek out a mentor who can help you on your career journey. A mentor can teach you the ropes, answer your burning questions, and offer invaluable guidance and advice.
Kevin advises, “Establishing a strong trust network is also really important. There are some great organisations, such as the Australian Women in Security Network (AWSN), that provide a platform for networking.
Vannessa agrees: “Having worked with some technically brilliant minds, I’ve had a lot of support and mentorship. I’ve built partnerships with people where I know our combined skills are complementary. Outside of work, I’m involved in the Australian Women Security Network and I have found a support pod to balance what I need professionally.”
5. Look for organisations focusing on diversity and inclusion
There are thousands of companies offering positions in cyber security – so how do you know where to start?
“Look for organisations that have Diversity, Equity & Inclusion programs and provide a culture that embraces change,” advises Kevin. “There needs to a balance of a top-down approach at the executive level, building a strong case for change, along with a bottom-up approach that promotes equity in training, development, mentoring and support for underrepresented groups like working parents and those returning to the workforce.”
Vannessa says she focuses on “creating psychological safety, where people can be their authentic selves, and feel cared for, empowered and respected – with a sense of ownership of a mission and accountability for their actions”.
Kinetic IT has a strong focus on diversity and inclusion, starting with an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy. We encourage people from all walks of life to pursue a career in cyber security and ICT, with initiatives such as our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traineeship program and our partnerships with Registered Training Organisations such as The Gordon Institute in Victoria. We also participate in school incursion programs such as Women in Technology WA’s (WiTWA) Techtrails, and sponsor programs like the Go Girl tech conference, run by our long-term partner VIC ICT 4 WOMEN.
With flexible working conditions, such as working from home, part-time roles, and job sharing, we provide support for groups including neurodivergent professionals and working parents. Our crew have also established community groups to encourage diversity of thought and experience at Kinetic IT, including our Women in IT network, which provides a place for women and allies to and develop their career pathways, and our Rainbow @ KIT committee, representing crew from the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies.
6. Set boundaries and take care of yourself
Your wellbeing is crucial in any career, but research shows that professionals working in cyber security are often susceptible to burnout. “There are internal challenges we put on ourselves, and one I’ve had to focus on is ensuring I manage myself,” says Vannessa. “I’ve experienced burnout in previous roles, believing there was ‘important stuff to do in the world’ and only I could do it. I’ve had to learn how to put boundaries in place for rest, sport, and wellbeing.”
Caring for yourself also extends to caring for those around you. “Recently, my style has been influenced by the adversity my family has faced with my brother’s death from suicide,” says Vannessa. “Losing my brother was rough and a life changing moment. I became more aware of the importance of mindset and the importance of looking after myself, and respect and care for those around you.”
“In work, this translates to a focus on crew and culture. No asset is more important to this work than our crew. Continuing to attract and retain talent is foundational to success.”
7. Take chances and say yes to new challenges
When asked about advice for people aspiring to a career in cyber security, Vannessa says: “Don’t think too much about it. Just go for it. Taking that one step can lead you to a career of work that is filled with purpose and learning. It’s an infinite game, so just start – our profession will be richer for it.”
Are you interested in pursuing a career in cyber security or ICT? We’d love to support you on your career journey. Find out what life is like at Kinetic IT and look out for new job opportunities at Kinetic IT here and at our cyber security solution PROTECT+ here.