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Cybersecurity Career Myths Debunked - Part II

Posted by Brett Scott on Dec 8, 2020 8:00:00 AM

We had such tremendous success with Part I of our video series, Get the BS on CS (Get the Brett Scott on Cybersecurity) that we are back to debunk a few more myths for you. 

Join me, Sheri Piper, Tech Data Cyber Range Master our special guests – Jim Craig, Dean of Business and Information Technology, and Will McCullen, IT Center of Excellence Advanced Program Manager from Pima Community College as tackle the next few myths around cybersecurity careers. Tune in to the video series here. There’s still plenty to learn as we explore this fascinating field.

MYTH 4: You need a 4-year degree to obtain a cybersecurity job.

The Truth: Nothing could be further from the truth. The world of cybersecurity is everchanging and is not best suited to a 4-year degree. I’m not saying a 4-year institution is worthless. What I am saying is that it’s not going to be helpful to you in cybersecurity.

Earlier this year, the Tech Data Cyber Range, using a custom-built Capture-the-Flag (CTF) technology, hosted several universities to attack targets and be scored. Pima Community College (PCC) participated in one of these CTF exercises. What was amazing is that every single one of PCC’s teams including a team that said, “What are we doing? How do we do it?” but had spent a little bit of time at the Cyber Range, beat the best mentored university teams by factors of score. That means they did several times better. Even the lowest level team scored factorially higher in the same CTF exercise as universities which also had industry mentors with them while they were doing it. That’s a profound result. And that result comes from the non-structured or stilted environment PCC offers its students and the way the Tech Data Cyber Range also makes it possible for people to explore and learn.

Prior to PCC introducing their Cybersecurity program, they held a summit with businesses from around Tucson, AZ. They did this to better understand the needs of businesses in the area so as to create a curriculum that would result in local businesses hiring their cybersecurity graduates.  “What we discovered is that the system is somewhat broken. You can go through a 4-year degree and learn a lot of theory and get a lot of good stuff, but in the workplace where you need hands on skills, the theory doesn’t translate to know how. Businesses then find themselves having to retrain or train the students they just hired,” revealed Will. “The reality is teaching IT is not just information to then be given back but it’s how do you approach and attack a problem that you don’t know how to fix? And the only way that really happens is if you get to be in the situation where you work on those problems and that’s where the advantage of the range, the advantage of a student run datacenter, the advantage of a student operated security operations center (SOC) all comes into play – where they actually get hands on and learn and get experience.” PCC took this understanding and went on to create their program with what’s known as stackable credentials. Now students can come learn, take that knowledge into the workplace, apply it and then return to PCC to get additional certifications and then go back to their jobs with this new-found knowledge. This process fosters lifelong learning which essential in constantly changing and developing field like cybersecurity.

“The main thing you need to find out before you launch into a whole IT program is – do you love it? If you don’t love it you are going to be miserable, but if you do love it the learning never stops. It continues all the time,” said Will.

MYTH 5: You need to live in Silicon Valley to have a successful/lucrative cybersecurity career.

The Truth: The simple answer is – absolutely not. The fact is people who think differently and approach problems differently, will always be better. If you are inside of a monoculture like Silicon Valley, you are not going to be allowed the freedom to be creative and innovative. You are going to be stuck in a mold. The more places that are not Silicon Valley that are contributing to cybersecurity the better off we are.

In addition, “Some of the key things you need to keep in mind is that there is a lot of work out there that is part of the gig economy and small businesses are everywhere, so it’s not in centralized spots. Plus, the pandemic has greatly impacted the market and many positions have moved to remote opportunities. So definitely don’t limit yourself,” said Will.

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally by 2021. Well trained graduates such as the ones coming out of PCC’s cybersecurity program are perfectly positioned to be plucked to fill those job requisitions wherever they may be. And with more companies going to a work-from-home model, graduates may find themselves working for a company that’s across the country and never have to visit corporate headquarters.

MYTH 6: The pay for entry-level cybersecurity jobs is low.

The Truth: As previously stated, there are millions of unfilled cybersecurity jobs in existence. Typically, an entry-level position in cybersecurity pays much better than the national average. That trend will continue because, cybersecurity [attacks] are getting worse and the need for well-qualified technicians continues to grow. There is a massive amount of opportunity that is highly rewarded [financially]. But, I also caution you that if your pursuit of cybersecurity is based on the dollar or your financial return, you’re really not the kind of person that’s going to make a real difference in cybersecurity. There are plenty of other jobs that would be happy to help pay you a big salary, but cybersecurity is so important that we really do need those people who are motivated by their passion.

When you have that passion and you pursue it, you are rewarded because cybersecurity pays better than almost any other job that is out there.

Will adds, “Don’t overlook small beginnings because you can increase in this industry so fast just by having initiative, having drive and having interest. At PCC, we have businesses throughout Tucson that are needing cybersecurity graduates but it’s not just Tucson and that’s where Tech Data comes in. They have a lot of people coming to them in need and we will feed students directly that way. But look for those small beginnings too because those small beginnings can get you a wide variety of experience and that can serve you incredibly well throughout your career.”

If you have a passion for cybersecurity, Tech Data and our affiliations would like to meet with you. We can help get you connected and facilitate you entering this amazing field.

Follow this link to learn more about Pima Community College’s Cybersecurity Program or visit our Cyber Range website. Stay tuned to our Tech Data Authority blog as we debunk three more cybersecurity career myths!

Tags: Cybersecurity, Tech Data Cyber Range, Cybersecurity Myths, Debunking Cybersecurity Myths, Pima Community College