Whether from students, recent graduates, professionals looking to make a change, or just people making light conversation, I am frequently asked, “What it is like working in cybersecurity?” While most folks think we just install anti-virus all day, wearing black hoodies and Guy Fawkes masks, we actually don’t. To be perfectly honest, I’m probably not the best person to ask about working in Cybersecurity, and I’ll tell you why. To me, working in cybersecurity is a dream come true. Not because I literally dreamed about it, but because of its dynamism.
A little backstory: In school and most things, I struggled to find any subject that could captivate my curiosity. Nothing could hold my attention very long; I got bored of most everything, once I understood it. Afterward, I went home and spent every waking hour on the internet, manipulating traffic / data, and learning how to do it more proficiently and stealthily. Back then, "cybersecurity" was not a term yet, and almost nobody was doing it. Even government entities and internet search giants left default guest accounts active on Unix servers to proxy into, ftp yourself password hash files to a remote Unix shell, and wipe the logs. Further, the news wasn't selling cybersecurity just yet (by revealing how little everyone had), because they were still trying to explain what the internet was.
There was no demand for cybersecurity, so I never recognized it as a career path. I just kept tinkering, and ended up working in networking and systems administration. This background gave me an invaluable and thorough understanding of how cyberspace worked, and its myriad applications. This provided a rigid framework in which to build from. The fundamentals of technology (networking, and systems) are relatively static. Common network protocols and system hardware on a fundamental level do not change much at all. Storage sizes get bigger, physical footprints get smaller, processes get faster, and everything gets more efficient, but back then and still today, every computer has a CPU, memory, and storage, while networking predominantly runs TCP & UDP protocols. These things have not changed over time.
Cybersecurity and solutions architecture, on the other hand, are morphing at a radical pace. In a way, these are puzzles that are never solved (not for long, anyway). Technology and cybersecurity evolve at such a rapid pace that it keeps me excited, attentive, and always learning. I adore working in cybersecurity. I truly feel that getting my start at 6 years old, and spending more time on the internet in 1991 than kids spend on their phones today, I was BORN FOR THIS. Every day, I live with purpose and passion, oh and it pays, too? Icing on the cake. I feel more blessed than professional athletes. Although I take immense pride in immediacy and minute attention to detail, I do not look at it as a job, because it does not feel like one to me. The hours are long and unpredictable, as it is often emergency response, but there is nothing I would rather be doing. Although weekly hours are greater than 40, it often feels like less than 10. I wish everyone could find what they thoroughly enjoy, or learn to thoroughly enjoy what they do.
If you do not have a competitive advantage, do not compete. However, when your competitive advantage is passion and purpose, nothing compares.
My life could not be better, and that is because I enjoy every part of it. This is why I might not be best equipped to answer the “how,” or “what it's like,” as I feel my story is unfortunately rare. But if I had to answer “how do I get my start in Cyber Security,” to someone on-purpose and with passion, I would say, “Start on networks and systems administration, understand the fundamentals, then launch into cyber security. If you want it bad enough, you will get it. And if you only want it for the paycheck, then don’t bother, because you probably won’t perform well anyway. You are always better off finding something that you will truly enjoy.” If you live and breathe technology and cyber security, drop me a line. Otherwise, find your purpose and pursue it.