New cyber threats are constantly appearing, so people seeking senior leadership roles must stay abreast of current developments at all times. Unlike in other fields, where experienced leaders might be slowing their pace and thinking about retirement, cybersecurity executives must guard against complacency. Cybersecurity speaker and author Scott Schober observes: “In cybersecurity, you never reach a pinnacle in your career. You can never be satisfied, but instead must keep working to stay ahead of the hackers.”
As a senior leader, part of your job is to help those in earlier stages of their careers. There are several ways you can do this, including acting as a mentor, speaking at conferences and addressing high-level challenges within the industry.
Seeking someone to mentor is similar to the process of seeking a mentor. First, evaluate what you have to offer, how much time you’re willing to spend and what your specialties are. Then, start with colleagues within your company, keeping an eye out for young professionals who are highly motivated and learn quickly. You can also find potential candidates within professional organizations or at conferences. If your company or professional organization has a mentoring program, sign up for it.
To get more involved with speaking, maintain a calendar of relevant conferences and when submissions for speaking are due. Keep your résumé and press packet up-to-date, and announce on your website or other points of presence online that you’re available to speak, and which topics you can cover, a senior cybersecurity expert.
Finally, seek out opportunities to improve the field for others who will come after you. Look back on your career and identify inequities, inefficiencies or other weaknesses that could be addressed.
Devon Bryan is a former VP, global technical security services for ADP; he now serves as executive VP and CISO at the Federal Reserve.
Throughout his long career he noticed the lack of diversity within the cybersecurity field. He explains, “Our future is hinged on technology. We need to change negative stereotypes and foster minorities’ interest in this field early in their educational trajectory. For example, girls who may show an interest in STEM in elementary school can be deterred by perceptions that those careers are for men only. Why not require students to take technology courses, just as they have to learn a foreign language?”
Bryan took action by founding the International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals (ICMCP), a volunteer-run organization that creates a pipeline for diverse cybersecurity talent and career pathways for them once they’ve decided to enter the field.
Consider a New Direction
Another possibility for senior cybersecurity professionals is to launch a second career or shift tracks. Sarah Clarke enjoyed a very successful IT and information security career for many years before shifting in 2016 into privacy and data protection, with a focus on making sense of the U.K.’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This law aims to strengthen and unify data protection for individuals within the EU. “The thing that motivates me, more than anything else, is reducing the risk of harm to people potentially impacted by accidental or malicious data disasters,” Clarke says.
Senior professionals with a passion for a specific niche within cybersecurity may want to think about a similar move.
Keep in Touch and On Your Toes
By the time you get to the senior leadership stage, you have most likely completed your schooling and certifications. But that doesn’t mean you have finished your education. To remain informed as an industry leader, you have many resources to choose from. Technology journalist and technical marketing consultant Matt Sarrel recommends several online resources:
In addition, there are many helpful lists (such as this one from Security Intelligence.com) that cover topics ranging from vulnerability of certain products to summaries of security incidents and organized cyberattacks.
Of course, as someone in a senior leadership role, you may be inspired to start your own blog, to build your own personal brand as a thought leader! There’s nothing stopping you!
Conferences are also useful for learning about new developments and finding ways to diversify skills or fine-tune specialties. Popular events include:
As a still-new field, cybersecurity holds great promise for those interested in contributing to the industry. New threats, emerging technologies and expansion of the need for this role within other fields all play a part in driving professional success. But, perhaps the strongest driver is each professional’s curiosity. Those keen to enter and expand have excellent opportunities to pursue an exciting career and help build the industry in a senior leadership role.