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5 skills to supercharge your cybersecurity career

22 Jun 2021

Forrester’s Heidi Shey discusses the skills needed in the cybersecurity industry and how tech professionals can make the most out of their security career.

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Cybersecurity professionals are in demand. Roles are open across all shapes and sizes of public and private sector organisations as firms recognise the threat of increased risk if caught short on professional cybersecurity resources.

Even in this environment, security professionals must take time to invest in professional development and growth to prepare for the future of work. In a world where automation and artificial intelligence will augment and change how businesses operate and how employees do their jobs, an adaptive skillset is critical to success.

You may continue to build a career in technical security roles. However, you could also consider preparing for a future that could take a path into management or into other parts of the organisation such as product management, risk management, privacy or customer success.

Being more adaptive will increase your value within the organisation and in the marketplace. There are plenty of other business areas to explore where security expertise is valued.

So, while technical training is important, there are five other skills worth developing to supercharge your cybersecurity career.

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1. Risk management

Risk management involves thinking about all the things that could possibly go wrong and deciding how likely they are to happen, assessing potential impact and planning or taking action to avoid either the problem or its consequences.

In an evolving regulatory and cybersecurity environment, this essential business management skill also involves developing a deeper understanding of third-party risk management and operational risks in your supply chain.

As well as developing problem-solving and analytical skills, adding risk management qualifications or capabilities to your portfolio will build negotiation, communication and broader business skills that will increase the flexibility of your career prospects.

2. Data science

Data science is a career in itself – and one similarly suffering a shortage of skilled professionals. But it is also a proficiency that will help boost your career in cybersecurity.

Data science involves a blend of data analysis, statistics and processes to gain insights from security data that help drive strategic business decisions. This includes the ability to identify relevant questions, organise information and effectively communicate insights.

As a minimum, ensure that you are data savvy and understand when to question what you see from data, identify outliers, bias and limitations of data that you work with.

3. Privacy and ethics

Employers are increasingly looking for an understanding of privacy and ethics in a multitude of roles, not limited to security. Knowledge of privacy and ethics is vital for informing the process and technology decisions cybersecurity teams make for combatting insider threats. It also elevates the team’s input into purchasing or developing technologies and services that rely on use of personal data.

For your future career path, these skills are also of value and open doors across the broader organisation. If you ever wish to transition into other roles and functions internally, your application will be enhanced by the cybersecurity, privacy and ethics expertise that you take with you.

4. Communication

As important as communication skills are today, they will become increasingly indispensable going forward.

Security teams must have the ability to effectively engage not just with their technical peers, but also non-technical business stakeholders, an organisation’s customers and the general workforce. This means paying attention to building your proficiency and excellence in writing, storytelling and general interpersonal skills.

Learn and speak the minutiae of business. Just like any new language, ‘business’ is a language that you can train yourself to understand, speak and think. You should seek to be well versed in the commercial, budgeting and funding realities of your organisation.

This will require spending time with the finance and commercial teams to learn the details of their operations, or perhaps you might consider pursuing a business or management study course.

5. Leadership skills

Build your ability to inspire, manage and lead a team. For this, you will need to acquire and continue to develop your people-leadership skills, which will include your ability to gauge and set an appropriate team culture and set a positive example for your team.

You’ll also need to know how to manage stress, manage performance, have productive conversations about difficult topics, handle conflict, effectively conduct a meeting and flex your leadership style according to the needs of your team.

You cannot wing leadership skills. Instead, focus on acquiring and developing them with the right coaching, self-awareness and commitment.

Learning opportunities exist where you make them

Finding an organisation that supports career development isn’t always easy. But even if your organisation is unable to allocate budget, you can still take steps to develop your skills and experiences.

Understand that professional development can take many forms and is usually a mix of on-the-job learning, formal training and coaching. The right mix should be personalised to you as an individual employee, based on your development needs, the point you have reached in your career, and in alignment with the needs of the organisation.

You can also help yourself with free and low-cost resources support self-directed learning. Podcasts, online publications, social media, videos, virtual training and local meet-ups are good options here. Join industry discussion groups and keep an eye out on social media for virtual conferences and summits that occur at various points in the year.

And try to secure regular coaching opportunities with your seniors and peers across the organisation to understand their roles, gain from their experiences, and ultimately broaden your horizons.

By Heidi Shey

Heidi Shey is a principal analyst in security and risk at research and advisory company Forrester.

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