Today, technology fits into the palm of our hand. We have become accustomed to turning to it to find all sorts of answers to everyday challenges such as where to eat, where to shop, what to watch on our favorite streaming service, or even when to sleep. Technology has weaved itself into the very fabric of our lives, and many of us would be lost without it.
Just as new apps get replaced by old ones, we in the security profession must continue to review our personal apps (skills) and upgrade. This might hold particularly true for women, who are urgently needed in greater numbers if the cybersecurity industry is to meaningfully address the longstanding shortage of qualified practitioners.
ISACA’s State of Cybersecurity 2019 report shows that 69 percent of respondents say their cybersecurity teams are understaffed. This short supply of qualified cybersecurity professionals has led to unfilled positions and a widening work skills gap. The research also reveals that 45 percent of the survey’s female respondents believe that both men and women have equal opportunity for career advancement.
Traditional security measures of ‘walls and layered defenses’ no longer apply in today’s hyperconnected world. As Albert Einstein stated, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” We need to diversify our thinking and bring more women into the cybersecurity profession. I would like to offer up a challenge to women to consider a career upgrade into cybersecurity and cross the digital divide.
To head down this path more effectively, the first step is to take an inventory of your personal apps. List out your personal apps into three categories:
- Core apps: these are the foundation of your personal operating system; these are the apps that you take with you from job to job, such as motivation, drive, resilience, flexibility and initiative.
- Multipurpose apps: these are the apps that are intrinsically linked with your core operating system that make you spark, such as communication (both verbal and written), critical thinking, analytical skills; project management and leadership.
- Dedicated/focused apps: these are often apps that are specific to a particular function.
Future cybersecurity career
Be fearless and audacious when creating this list. Women have many more core and multipurpose apps than they often accredit to themselves. Also recognize that, in many cases, the dedicated and focused apps are the building blocks and crossover apps for a future career in cybersecurity. For example, an undergraduate degree in psychology may benefit you when looking for patterns and behaviors of cybercriminals.
One of the challenges women often face when creating their list of apps is the compartmentalization in their thinking, not realizing that one app may cross into many different areas. As noted in ISACA’s State of Cybersecurity 2019: Current Trends In Workforce Development, “cybersecurity… suffers from a lack of business comprehension. Forty-nine percent of respondents identify the ability to understand the business as the biggest skill gap.” Is business knowledge and acumen one of your apps? What other apps do you have that can cross over into cybersecurity?
Second, reconnect to your social media and networking apps. A catalyst for professional growth and career growth for women in the cybersecurity industry is to connect with others purposefully. In ISACA’s new Tech Workforce 2020: The Age and Gender Perception Gap research, the majority of female survey respondents indicate that they believe the shortage of female role models is the primary reason why women are underrepresented in the tech sector globally. Seek out those who can be advisors, coaches, teachers and champions. This can be a game-changer.
Conferences and networking
Also, consider attending local chapter meetings of professional associations affiliated with cybersecurity and attending cybersecurity or other technical conferences. What are the networking and social media apps in your area? Connect, design and formalize relationships with more senior professionals. It is remarkable how many new career opportunities can be set in motion by these types of relationships, which often are personally enjoyable as an added benefit.
The final step is to download some new apps. Certification programs and boot camps are some of the lower-cost ways of gaining the apps you need to position yourself for what could be a significant career upgrade. There also are many online courses that are free or low-cost.
Certifications can upgrade your apps and help you transition into cybersecurity. A career in cybersecurity means keeping your apps up to date. Attend as many conferences and professional development programs as you can – making ongoing education one of the central components of your career approach – to keep upgrading and adding new apps.
Ultimately, all of us together can make this approach go viral and help ensure that more women will consider a career upgrade into cybersecurity.