Eva Yu started as an AntiVirus Analyst and is now a data scientist at Fortinet, a global cyber-security company headquartered in California. She graduated from the British Columbia Institute of Technology in 2017 and is based out of Fortinet’s offices in Burnaby, BC.
The transition from university to a post-graduate career often carries a great deal of fear and uncertainty, especially when entering a technical and enigmatic industry like cybersecurity. When deciding what career to pursue after graduation I knew that cybersecurity intrigued me, but I was unsure if I had the right background or the skills to succeed in this field.
I felt held back by the myths and misconceptions surrounding the cybersecurity industry and the types of jobs I thought were available for recent graduates. But, as I learned more about the field, I discovered that it was indeed very welcoming to new graduates. In addition, there continues to be a rapidly growing demand for talent and no shortage of career opportunities, no matter what your background or education.
In my experience, the most important asset in cybersecurity is a willingness and desire to learn, not just about technology but in general. Along with a genuine interest, the field will teach the “hard skills” over time, but softer skills, such as leadership, interpersonal communication, ethics, and human resources, are highly valued and an asset for candidates entering the field.
So, if you’re interested in, or even just curious about, a career in cybersecurity – here are some tips for transitioning into the industry post-university:
You’re not limited by your background or education
When looking towards building your career in cybersecurity after graduation, remember that you’re not limited by your background or education. Soft skills, such as leadership, collaboration, interpersonal communication, and more, are highly valued and can be just as important as being a tech expert.
There are plenty of career options and opportunities within cybersecurity for people with both technology and non-technology backgrounds. If you’re starting from a technology background, roles such as security engineer, cryptographer, virus technician, and more may be a great fit. Starting from a non-technology background? With some training, you can take on roles like network administrator or cyber policy analyst, that you might have thought were out of reach. There are also a variety of roles that are less technical or cybersecurity-specific, such as marketing, human resources, finance, and so much more.
Pick a path
Cybersecurity is a broad field, so when you’re looking to break into the industry, it’s important to do the research and decide what area you want to focus on. Find out what fundamental skills you will need for an entry-level position in this area. This will help you set goals, both short- and long-term, and narrow in on the jobs you are most interested in.
Never stop learning
While you job hunt, and even beyond graduation, it can be extremely valuable to obtain additional certifications and hone your skills. Look at the requirements for the positions you’re interested in and work on developing these skills so you can add them to your resume. Employers love to see that a candidate has the desire to pursue professional development opportunities and learn more about the technical side of cybersecurity.
This doesn’t have to be a big commitment either! There is no shortage of free and open educational resources available to people looking to take the first step. In fact, Fortinet offers many useful courses that people in sales, product management, or customer support can work through at their own pace to gain a foundational knowledge in the field.
Take advantage of networking opportunities
If you don’t already have a network of cybersecurity professionals to reach out to, don’t worry! The industry offers many ways to break into the field and get connected. Searching on social media or LinkedIn will reveal many common interest groups and local community meet-ups to tap into. If you’re still in school, you can also look for opportunities to connect with your school’s alumni network and professionals in the field. Don’t be afraid to reach out and engage with guest speakers or potential employers at job fairs either. Connecting with people in the industry and asking questions can help to open doors and diminish any misconceptions you may have.
My biggest advice to anyone interested in pursuing the cybersecurity industry is: don’t be afraid to apply! Cybersecurity is a thriving industry with a wide variety of career options available to suit a range of skills, so remember that you’re not limited by your background or education and can bring something unique and special to any role!