The Skills You Need to Future Proof Your Security Career

Posted by Ashley Jones
cyber security skills

We had the pleasure to attend an insightful talk presented by Jenai Marinkovic, Chief Information Security and Chief Technology Officer of Tiro Security, at DEF CON’s virtual Career Hacking Village. Here are some key insights from Jenai’s discussion, looking at what the future of the cyber security workforce holds and how we can future proof our careers with six essential skills.

We often hear about career trajectory and the importance of continued learning, so that we can grow and be successful in our careers. But what specific hard and soft skills do we need to best prepare for future cyber security roles? To predict which skills will be necessary, we first need to understand what the future of security holds.

Intelligent Ecosystems

Jenai explains that we’re in the fourth industrial revolution—a time marked by an interconnection of the physical, the biological, and the digital worlds. When these worlds integrate as they are today, we see Big Bang disruptions, which transform entire systems. Jenai asserts that designing for cyber security in the future requires a willingness to explore how these technical trends are going to manifest into this future world.

She forecasts that next generation security systems are going to leverage human-centered designs that intersect with empathy and creativity. They’re going to be accessed via personalized and anticipatory interfaces using natural language and voice. And they’re going to culminate into role-based and purpose-based digital assistants that will help navigate employees through the explosion of data in these intelligent ecosystems.

The big question is, as AI and cognitive solutions evolve in sophistication and the majority of our workloads become automated, how will this affect security jobs? What skills are necessary to operate in these blended worlds where security professionals are working alongside digital assistants or robotics?

Jenai suggests we’re going to have to place higher value on our people skills, our business intelligence, our independent thinking, and innovation to build the next generation security worker. She describes six skills that security professionals are going to need to operate in a world of automation: artificial intelligence, biological systems, user experience design, creativity and design, storytelling, and empathy.

1. Artificial Intelligence

As cyber security professionals, you’re expected to protect and defend systems that have machine learning built into them. Jenai explains you need an understanding of AI in order to do your future job. For example, this might be in the security architecture and design phase, in the way that we instrument and monitor attacks against systems that have machine learning built into them, and in the way that you do digital forensics within these systems.

Additionally, Jenai adds, that with an augmented workforce, you’re working alongside digital assistants. She states we already see this in industries such as supply chain and customer care, where people have digital assistants or robotics that work alongside them and take over a lot of the day-to-day activities through automation. So in building and designing these systems, Jenai says it’s critical for security users to understand AI.

2. Biological Systems

Next, Jenai recommends that we become more competent in understanding biological systems. The intersection between the physical, digital, and biological worlds is key here. Jenai asserts you’re going to be expected to design cyber security controls into wearables and embedded biological devices, such as embedded medical tattoos or ingestible robots. If those systems get compromised, what’s the impact to the human?

Furthermore, Jenai suggests if you want insight into approaching and building security holistically, look to biological systems. For example, the human immune system is frictionless and transparent. When something bad happens, your immune system goes off without you thinking about it. Jenai says those are the same actions that we expect when we design security systems for end users.

So the future design of cyber security systems needs to be more transparent and have a lot less friction to the end user. Understanding biological systems and looking at everything from a terrestrial ecosystem design standpoint offers inspiration and insight as you approach cyber security design.

3. User Experience Design

Another key skill Jenai emphasizes is user experience (UX) design. She explains that the way security architectures are designed for cyber security professionals, as end users, are problematic. Oftentimes, you have to click through multiple screens to get anything done. Friction in the process adds a lot of time, and when you’re dealing with attacks that operate rapidly, time is of the essence. Since the future of our applications will have voice interfaces and digital assistants built into them, Jenai says it’s important that we as security professionals understand how to map out user journeys and design user experiences.

4. Creativity and Design

Jenai states that creativity is still one of those skills where humans outperform machines, and our ability to think outside of the box and apply creative processes is going to be critical in cyber security. We’re going to see attacks and breaches unlike anything we’ve seen in the past, which means we’re going to have to leverage different types of experiences and ways of doing things.

And so Jenai suggests, proper education and training in the world of design and creativity are skills we’re going to need, not only in STEM careers, but also in the world of cyber security. She reminds that attackers are bound only by the limits of their creativity, which means we need to meet creativity with creativity.

5. Storytelling

Another key skill we’re going to have to build as a workforce is our ability to communicate through storytelling. Security people are often very good at communicating with other technical people, but are sometimes misinterpreted when communicating with colleagues, users, management, and board of directors. Jenai advises understanding how to story tell is going to be a key skill, in terms of communication and persuasion.

Humans have been storytelling as a way to communicate information since the beginning of time. Reach into those skills and communicate difficult topics using storytelling. Jenai suggests being able to tell a good story can elicit reactions that have hormonal responses, getting the person to feel empathy or understand your call to action.

6. Empathy

And finally, being able to build a bond and be empathetic is key to storytelling. Jenai believes, if we expect our users, colleagues, or management to understand what we’re trying to communicate, then we also have to be able to look at the world through their eyes.

Where are they coming from? Proper UX design and creative design rests on empathy. So when we’re trying to communicate and get people to align with us or take specific actions, Jenai says we must look at the world through their lens and design solutions that ultimately allow all of us to be able to work together. By thinking holistically and having an understanding of these key skills, we stand to operate in this future world and deliver the protection we’re responsible for.


  • Ashley Jones

    Ashley Jones is ClearedJobs.Net's blog Editor and a cleared job search expert, dedicated to helping security-cleared job seekers and employers navigate job search and recruitment challenges. With in-depth experience assisting cleared job seekers and transitioning military personnel at in-person and virtual Cleared Job Fairs and military base hiring events, Ashley has a deep understanding of the unique needs of the cleared community. She is also the Editor of ClearedJobs.Net's job search podcast, Security Cleared Jobs: Who's Hiring & How.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 26, 2020 4:22 pm

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