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Five Professionals Explain Why You Should Start a Career in the Vital and Growing Cybersecurity Industry

Five Professionals Explain Why You Should Start a Career in the Vital and Growing Cybersecurity Industry

Don't assume you need programming expertise. Don't be intimidated and don’t place limits on yourself.

You have an interest in tech. You want to make the world a better place. You’re intrigued by the idea of a career in cybersecurity, but you’re worried about the high stakes and your lack of experience with computer science. 

Five cybersecurity experts think you should just go for it.

They have personal experience to back it up, too. Moira Parham, a senior software engineer, studied Russian Literature in college. Pam Phillip, senior public relations manager, spent her early career in psychology, and Maria Tabiou, an award-winning security engineer, has her degree in business. Not everyone was like Giuliana Carullo, senior research manager, who knew at age eight that she wanted to work in information technology (IT). 

These five professionals agree: cybersecurity is a vast field with endless opportunities. In fact, if you have trouble choosing between all the possibilities, take a page from Maggie Zuelsdorf’s book and try out the company whose logo you like best. Zuelsdorf became a software engineer at Tenable after spotting the company’s booth at her college career fair, and ended up with her dream job.

Read each of their stories for unique inspiration and helpful tips about how to achieve your professional goals and keep yourself cybersafe. 

How to pursue a career in cybersecurity

How I got into cybersecurity: 

"After high school I did my bachelor's degrees in applied physics and business law, then I did a master's degree in business. Afterwards I was like, ‘okay, what am I going to do now, because I have two degrees that don't really match.’ I met this person who was the product and services director at a distributor and he told me to try cybersecurity. I thought, ‘why not?’ I was pretty good at coding thanks to my studies in physics. I worked for him for a few years. When I started working in cybersecurity, especially as a security engineer, I felt like, ‘this is it; this is what I'm good at and this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’ ”

My tip for those considering a career in cybersecurity: 

"Cybersecurity is a world where everybody knows everybody and there are always people to help you. Don’t limit your imagination for what you can do; it’s not just a boring desk job. I cannot imagine doing anything else, actually.”

My tip to keep yourself cybersafe: 

"As a wise head of legal once said, ‘don't be a [email protected]’ If you see a link which says ‘click here you're gonna win five $5 million,’ just don't click on it. Question everything remotely suspicious and don’t hold back on the amount of security necessary to keep you safe.” 

How I got into cybersecurity:

"I knew I wanted to be in information technology since I was eight years old. I was a baby on a mission. I was blessed enough to always know the next step. I’d just think, ‘okay what's my next target?’ When I was 15 years old I started coding, and at university I focused on engineering skills and research. I started working as a research engineer, leading European-funded projects. Eventually the scope of my research became larger and I started to look at bigger problems, and after joining Tenable I became a research manager. I became a leader by choice, not by chance. I still love coding, but I can serve companies even better within a leadership role.”

My tip for those considering a career in cybersecurity:

"The world of cybersecurity has plenty of opportunities and challenges. Build your network. Cybersecurity is a huge field with plenty of companies focusing on different aspects of security, so figure out what you like the most. Don't be your own enemy; don't place limits on yourself. If you find something intriguing, just give it a try. The worst case is that it doesn't work for you and you can always redirect your steps elsewhere. Finally, do not despise little beginnings.” 

My tip to keep yourself cybersafe:

"Follow the common wisdom. Also, I think we are less careful with our privacy because of social media. Oftentimes we share too much.” 

How I got into cybersecurity:

"I studied computer engineering and then I decided that I didn't want to do programming so I took a massive shift and jumped into psychology. I worked at a psychiatric institution and then at a Buddhist organization and I had the opportunity to do a lot of marketing activities, which I enjoyed. At the tail-end of those years, I realized that the soft skills I’d acquired, combined with my knowledge in technology, were a valuable combination to organizations seeking to tell their stories in a personable manner. Public relations (PR) stood right in the center of what I loved so I got a job at a PR agency that specializes in tech. I had this particular security client, and in terms of making a difference, that resonated with me more than some of the other clients. Eventually, I decided that it was time to leave the agency life behind and join an organization that just focuses on security.”

My advice for someone considering a career in cybersecurity:

"When I started my career in PR, the discussion about cybersecurity was reserved for the security person. But today, the relevance of cybersecurity has come down to the consumer level; it’s become a mainstream topic. My advice is to not think twice about getting into cybersecurity. You don't need to be a security expert to be in this field. Cybersecurity is broad enough that you can contribute through what you do best: it could be marketing, it could be sales, it could be digital, it could be PR.” 

My tip for keeping yourself cybersafe:

"Don't click on links that promise you something too good to be true. If you think that somebody is going to give you cash in exchange for your personal details, then that in itself is very dubious. Don't listen to conspiracy theories; if something is legit, you will get advice from known authorities.”

How I got into cybersecurity:

"I don't have a tech degree; my bachelor’s is in Russian literature. I used to work for a grocery store chain while I was finishing college. After college I started teaching myself programming and networks by taking some basic courses. I ended up working in the information technology (IT) department at the grocery store I had worked at in college, but I moved on to managing the internal IT help desk, programming cash registers, and testing system upgrades.

"When I started at Tenable, I started as a help desk engineer, and at the time I didn't really have any cybersecurity experience, but I had plenty of troubleshooting experience. After a few years, I moved over to the quality assurance (QA) department and found my true love: being an analyst and the testing part of engineering.”

My advice to someone considering a career in cybersecurity:

"Be prepared to do something new almost every day. It's a very fast moving industry, that's one thing I love about it, as it constantly keeps me interested. There's a variety of careers in cybersecurity; you don't have to be a programmer. There's so many opportunities at so many levels.” 

My tip for keeping yourself cybersafe:

"The number one thing is to use two-factor authentication for everything. Be smart about social media too. I am constantly seeing so many things fly by on Facebook that are tricking people into giving over their age, birthday and other personal information. People are getting more and more savvy about that sort of thing, but some of the bad actors are pretty sneaky.”

How I got into cybersecurity:

"I decided I wanted to go into cybersecurity when I was in college. I’ve always been a technology person, so I knew that I wanted to have a career in something technology related. One of the paths I wanted to go down was in malicious software. I first learned about Tenable when I went to a career fair in college. What drew me to Tenable in the first place was the logo because, honestly, I thought it looked really cool. After talking to the recruiters at the booth, I was sure that I wanted to do an internship. Everyone was very welcoming.”

My advice for someone considering a career in cyber:

"Just jump in! When I was a college student, I was extremely intimidated by going into cybersecurity because it seemed like such a critical field where you couldn't mess up. It seemed like if you were to make one small mistake, something bad could happen and you’d be the one to blame. But what I learned is that if you have a great company that's willing to mentor you, you'll become a successful software engineer. There's always people there who have so much knowledge to help you. We are all there to help each other learn and catch those mistakes.”

My tip for keeping yourself cybersafe:

"Know where you're vulnerable. Companies will put out patches for important bugs that they see. If you leave these unchecked and you don't apply the updates, your systems could become corrupted or your information could be stolen. Trust the people who are putting out those patches and update your systems to ensure that you’re staying safe.”

Learn more:

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