Why organisations need to support careers in cybersecurity
Scotland this week is investing in awareness around cybersecurity through Cyber Scotland Week and it is something that we wholeheartedly endorse. The series of events in universities and schools helps encourage people to understand the risks of cybersecurity but also encourages more people to realise that there is a profession in helping defend our businesses, public institutions, and economy from adversaries.
We at Leidos need a significant number of professionals with lots of cybersecurity knowledge and skills, but so does everyone else. It takes time to recognize talent, and then help a professional grow and develop more desired skills through experiences. Once performing at a high level of proficiency, there are plenty of other opportunities for that professional since cyber skills transcend industries and geography. This means we need to start the cycle again and continually onboard, train, mentor, and challenge talent.
Many organisations are struggling to attract and recruit qualified personnel and this situation will continue as organisations accept the realities of digital business, necessitating alternative approaches to finding cyber security talent. So we are reaching out earlier than ever before to get people interested in cybersecurity as a career. From the time children start using computers, this generation is inundated with lessons on good basic security practices, how to avoid cyberbullying, and how to operate safely on the internet. These efforts build a bridge that many other STEM disciplines don’t get to enjoy. Chemistry, advanced mathematics, and mechanical engineering are concepts that are hard to explain to younger students and can feel like abstract options. Showing these students how what they learn to do on the internet can actually become a full-time job defending against "bad guys" provides the cyber industry a competitive advantage.
Over the last decade, educational institutions have updated their curricula for cybersecurity programmes, some starting as early as primary school, with heavier emphasis in secondary school and university programmes. However, universities are only now embracing cybersecurity as a core degree goal as opposed to a focus area for computer science or computer information systems majors.
At Leidos, we have developed partnerships with educational institutions, such as Napier University, to help strengthen our talent pipeline in cybersecurity and, in turn, provide deep learning opportunities for students to put theory into practice.
Ronan Coyne joined Leidos as a Junior Cybersecurity Engineer on our Graduate Apprenticeship programme in June 2017. Ronan is in the second year of his two-year graduate apprenticeship, studying for a BEng Hons in cybersecurity through Napier University, alongside his work at Leidos.
Ronan explains: "Leidos is the first job I’ve ever had. Theory is great but you need to be able to apply it. You need to be learning practically and working four days a week, with one day at university, and this apprenticeship allows me to do just that. I get to work on all areas of security from penetration testing to ethical hacking to software development – with the bonus of getting paid! I like the welcoming atmosphere at the offices. There are lots of social activities in the office, which helps enrich my experience. The apprenticeship programme is well structured and I was paired with a mentor straight away. I thought the world of work would be a daunting experience, but people in Leidos made me feel part of the team very quickly. I’ve never felt like I was being treated any differently by senior and more experienced people as I was able to show value really quickly, as demonstrated by the projects I got involved in."
Andy Bunn, Senior Infrastructure Security Consultant and Ronan’s manager, explains what it’s like having an apprentice in the team and the value it brings to Leidos:
"Since joining us two years ago, Ronan has become a core member of our Scottish Cybersecurity Team. He is professional, attentive, and knowledgeable in a number of key areas and is regularly engaged on customer penetration testing assignments. He is a shining example of the benefits of having ‘early career’ individuals within our team, bringing his own unique perspective to problems we face on a daily basis."
Ronan is due to graduate in 2021 and aims to be a Cybersecurity Consultant. He already grasps the value that someone with his skillset can bring to an organisation.
The Leidos core values of Integrity, Innovation, Agility, Collaboration, and Commitment are exactly why we create and support these programmes at all levels. The importance of our next generation understanding the future of protecting key business assets, our digital data, is fundamental. We look forward to continuing to support our UK clients and partners with their digital initiatives with cyber integrated into every component of their technology journey.