The cybersecurity profession has the unique problem of negative unemployment. In other words, many organizations are struggling to find and retain cybersecurity professionals—and those challenges will remain for the foreseeable future. The cybersecurity industry is projecting a staffing shortage of 1.8 million unfilled jobs globally by 2022, according to Forrester Research. Meanwhile, research from Enterprise Strategy Group and the Information Systems Security Association indicates that 45 percent of organizations claim to have a problematic shortage of cybersecurity skills.
These sobering statistics have led companies to consider hiring and training military veterans to fill vital cybersecurity positions. After all, most vets are familiar with the rigors of training, maintaining and advancing their knowledge, as well as showing initiative. What’s more, veterans have been trusted with advanced technology, as well as how to “secure” equipment.
According to the Department of Defense, more than 200,000 members of the U.S. military transition from active-duty positions back to civilian life annually, and numerous organizations are coming together to help train them for critical positions within the cybersecurity workforce. Well-known vendors such as Cisco, Netapp, and Fortinet, as well as many government agencies, have put programs and initiatives in place to train veterans for cyberwarfare roles.
“Within the next few years, we are facing the global reality of nearly 2 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs, which poses a threat to our national security, businesses and the local community,” said Christopher Marshall, a Navy veteran and director of cybersecurity research for Cisco Talos.
With more than 370,000 unemployed veterans in the United States, there may very well be a large pool of professionals for companies to recruit from. However, there are still some challenges to overcome.
“While in the military, service members often lead in roles that closely mirror jobs in the civilian workforce. But if their résumé fails to describe their responsibilities in civilian terminology, their experience can get lost in translation on veteran résumés or in job interviews,” said Chris Presley, a former U.S. Army specialist in cryptography who is now a security engineer at WhiteHat Security. “Once I left the military, however, I struggled on the civilian job search battlefield.”
“The biggest challenge for transitioning veterans will be getting up to speed on newer technologies. The technology that most soldiers use is three to five years behind their civilian counterparts,” added Dana Hawkins, director of security services at Proficio. Hawkins has parlayed skills gained during his eight years of Navy service and three years in the California Air National Guard into a career in cybersecurity.
“However, veterans come from the military with superior management and time-management skills, they’ve learned to deal with difficult people and how to create a team and build a cohesive leadership atmosphere where people want to follow. It’s technical skills versus leadership skills,” Hawkins said.
For Veterans, Cybersecurity Training is Out There
Bringing veterans and civilian employers together still proves to be a complicated endeavor, one where both may need to learn the language of the other. While cyber-skills are a critical concern for employers seeking to better protect their systems, initiative and the ability to learn new skills in a constantly evolving environment should also be a critical consideration.
Organizations such as CyberVets USA offer free online training, certification and employment opportunities to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard and Reservists, as well as military spouses looking to enter the cyber workforce. Government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security are also offering programs to help veterans launch careers in cybersecurity.
Many vendors likewise want to bring veterans into the cybersecurity fold. For example, cybersecurity vendor Fortinet offers a Veterans Program that aims to help military service members find opportunities at both the company and its partners. Cisco Systems has a Veteran Talent Incubation Program that consists of an intensive twenty-week boot camp that could lead to a job with the company as a Cisco Network Engineer.
Veterans can find more training resources at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, which is backed by Syracuse University. Other resources available include the Hire Heroes USA organization, which helps with training and job placement. The SANS Institute offers a no-cost CyberTalent immersion curriculum for qualified veterans.
Today, both public and private organizations are faced with two intertwined issues; an increasingly complex and growing threat landscape and a lack of cybersecurity professionals to handle these threats. Proactive organizations are creating programs that help increase internal cybersecurity knowledge and educate new hires to take on the challenges of cybersecurity, which in turn increases the development of cyber-expertise (and can start veterans on a highly sought-after career path).
Jeff Crockett, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force, experienced firsthand how a transition to the civilian workforce can be accomplished using readily available resources. Crocket took part in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program as he prepared to leave the military. Crockett also discovered a number of outside programs that help veterans transition into the cybersecurity field. “I was very impressed with what I heard,” Crockett said. “The programs are set up really well to help veterans transition from military culture to a civilian, commercial culture.”
Success came swiftly for Crockett. He began receiving emails from potential employers soon after entering the program, and was soon interviewing with companies. A letter of recommendation from the program assured prospective employers that he had proven set of skills. Crocket attributes the quality of assistance he received and his participation in the program for his current position at Capital One, where he is on the front lines of their Cyber Monitoring Defense Development project, researching and developing the solutions that will protect and defend the network.