The Intel on Cybersecurity Hiring

Posted by Kathleen Smith

A few months ago we set out on a mission to find a solution to a cybersecurity hiring crisis. The premise: There is a worldwide hiring crisis for cybersecurity professionals while at the same time a high unemployment rate for veterans. Our solution: Encourage, recruit and retain more veterans in cybersecurity careers.

Nadia Short, General Dynamics-AIS
Nadia Short, General Dynamics-AIS

What we found across the board was that all executives agreed that veterans bring leadership, teamwork, mission focus and technical skills that are important to the cybersecurity community. Many executives felt that military personnel that have been on deployments bring  a very specific mindset to cybersecurity honed from campaigns where targets are moving quickly, resources may not be available and teams need to come together quickly. This kind of skill set cannot be readily learned in an academic setting. As Nadia Short, GDAIS, said,

“Any military personnel who are coming out of the service, I would give three fingers for because they have the mission understanding in spades. I can’t buy that or replicate that kind of in-depth mission knowledge. These are the kind of people we want to join our team and mentor. My engineers that are getting right out of the universities are solid prospects who have the skills and the know-how to get things done, but they don’t have the unique mission-centric context that someone in the military does. Can you imagine the power of matching up an individual with 30 years of military experience and really understands the mission with these young engineers who have a fresh and innovative way of looking at things? That would be one powerful combination.”

Many of the veterans we interviewed who are now in senior cybersecurity positions did not start off in information assurance or information security – for example one was a hospital corpsman – but once they saw the opportunity to leverage their skills in cybersecurity and contribute to supporting the mission, they pursued educational and career opportunities to better hone their skills.

Why Aren’t More Veterans Considering Cybersecurity

The first challenge is a lack of understanding on the part of recruiters both in the civilian and government contracting world as to what skills translate to cybersecurity positions.

While veterans have many skills that apply to any position within the civilian world, there are several Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) – military speak for job categories – that specifically pertain to cybersecurity. Engility’s Director of Recruiting, Brigit Freedman shared that the MOSs they look for include Radio Signals, Electronic Warfare and Military Intelligence. These job categories work particularly well due to the Information Assurance certification that is required as part of the DoD 8570 regulation.

Understanding the language and different categories of military occupations is difficult for someone in the government contracting world. It is even more confusing for a civilian recruiters. Veteran and recruiter Bob Wheelershared a tip sheet on how to navigate the differences between the military branches, categories and pay scales which illustrates why it can be a challenge for recruiters to add this to their already overloaded work schedule.

The second challenge is competition from their current employer.  As Bob Wheeler pointed out there are significant re-enlistment bonuses ($60,000+) for cyber military personnel.

The third challenge is some veterans are hesitant about pursuing careers in the civilian world. Why? Culture change and fear of the unknown. Fortunately we chatted with Jason Redman on stepping out of your comfort zone and becoming community leaders. We hope that more veterans will heed his advice on living greatly.

Another challenge is that the cybersecurity job seeker is in many ways just like a regular job seeker. They’re mulling the same question in their minds: “What do I want to do next?”

Several cyber professionals have reached out to me over the last few months, and many have had the same approach that I have seen in other industries. Cybersecurity professionals are bombarded with unprofessional and disrespectful recruiting approaches.

Once you have established a trust relationship with them, they still have the same concerns as any other job seeker: Will the work be rewarding? Do I want to be part of that team? Is this the kind of work I am good at? With all the recruiting harassment these professionals endure, it’s a wonder they would want to take the time to delve into any kind of meaningful career conversations.

Communication is the Solution

The solution? Better and continuous communication.

Jeffrey Wells
Jeffrey Wells, Maryland Department of Business Development

As Jeffrey Wells, Executive Director, CyberMaryland and Navy veteran shared early in the series in a challenge, “I’ve challenged all of our cyber companies to interview one veteran every week, without looking at the veteran’s resume. The results in just a few weeks have been impressive.”

He then reported the impact for one company. “I recently met a veteran who was working as a bartender. I introduced the veteran to the COO of a cybersecurity product company and after a 45-minute conversation, the COO offered him a job. Six weeks later, the veteran brought in $1.5 million in new business. That’s the kind of work veterans can do.”

And while we initially thought our efforts to support veterans transitioning into cybersecurity careers would culminate with CyberMaryland 2014, we have decided to continue this as an ongoing effort. You will see more from us about ways to bring our veterans into these critical careers to support the overall mission.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 27, 2014 5:08 pm

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