How to get an IT security job: 3 hot skill sets

How to get an IT security job: 3 hot skill sets

Want to land a IT security job? Strong data analytics, machine learning, and communication skills could set you apart. Here's how to get and demonstrate them 

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As businesses begin to reopen offices, many are making big leaps into automation to cut costs and to reduce their dependence on human capital. According to Forrester’s report, The COVID-19 Crisis Will Accelerate Enterprise Automation Plans, companies are looking to lower their exposure to future business disruption that results when humans execute most organizational processes and functions. They will invest more in cognitive capabilities and applied artificial intelligence (AI), industrial robotics, service robots, and Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

The jobless recovery that results from increased automation will boost the automation trends that we started to see pre-pandemic. This is especially true in the security industry, which has seen a global labor shortage for many years.

[ Which IT jobs will position you well for the future? Read also: 5 flourishing and 5 fading IT careers and 8 IT jobs in flux. ]

However, automation doesn’t mean that firms will no longer need security human resources – far from it. To be successful, companies need people who can oversee their automation programs, analyze data, and develop insights.

What skill sets do you need to be successful in cybersecurity today? Here are three big ones. 

1. Data analytics skills

If networks are virtually running themselves due to automation, companies need people with data science and data analytic skills to train the algorithms to run the networks better.

Data science is hot: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the demand for data science skills will drive a 27.9 percent rise in employment through 2026. Four years in a row, data scientist has been named the number-one job in the U.S. by Glassdoor.

For job seekers in the security field, consider getting certified or pursuing on-the-job training in data analytics. Knowing how to interact and manipulate big data sets is going to be far more valuable to your employer than having 10 years of knowledge on how to provision firewalls.

Knowing how to interact and manipulate big data sets is going to be far more valuable to your employer than having 10 years of knowledge on how to provision firewalls.

How to acquire data analytics skills

There are many certification programs and other educational opportunities available: Harvard, for example, offers an online program called Analytics Certificate Program for Business Leaders in which students learn business analytics, emerging technologies, big data, and data visualization.

Top technology companies such as IBM, Microsoft, and SAS also offer analytics and big data certifications. One example is the IBM Cybersecurity Analyst Professional Certificate, which provides instructional content and labs covering network security, endpoint protection, incident response, threat intelligence, penetration testing, and vulnerability assessment.

[ Read also: IT careers: How to get a job as a data scientist and 15 IT certifications worth watching. ]

2. Machine learning and artificial intelligence

Machine learning (ML) skills, including programming artificial intelligence (AI), offer a fast track to the security jobs of the future. Machine learning technology uses synthetic neural nets to recognize patterns. Companies want cybersecurity experts who are trained in ML to recognize and respond to cyber threats.

[ Do you understand the main types of AI? Read also: 5 artificial intelligence (AI) types, defined. ]

In a 2019 survey by Capgemini Research Institute, 69 percent of surveyed security executives and leaders said they didn’t believe they could respond to cyberattacks without AI. According to Gartner, while AI is expected to wipe out some 1.8 million jobs by 2020, it will also create some 2.3 million.

How to acquire machine learning skills

Ideal candidates for ML cybersecurity jobs have strong mathematics skills and a knack for patterns and puzzles. Many traditional and online educational programs and opportunities exist to acquire machine learning skills. The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies, for example, offers an online course called Applied Data Science and Machine Learning for Security. It covers the entire data science process, including data preparation, feature engineering and selection, exploratory data analysis, data visualization, machine learning, model evaluation and optimization, and implementing scale, all with a focus on security-related problems. The Global Tech Council also offers a Certified Machine Learning Expert program that offers effective machine learning techniques, data mining, statistical pattern recognition, and more.

3. Soft skills, starting with communication

Today’s top security professionals need more than just technical skills, however. In addition to being able to analyze anomalies and patterns in networks, they should also have great storytelling and communication skills to explain what the data means to stakeholders and decision makers. Demonstrating expertise in communication is equally as important as showcasing technical skills.

Can you explain what the data means to stakeholders and decision makers?

In addition, since most cybersecurity positions involve protecting sensitive data, you must demonstrate that you are trustworthy and dependable, have strong problem-solving skills, and are able to maintain a calm demeanor when facing challenging situations.

How to demonstrate soft skills in an interview

The best way to prove that you have all the necessary skills – technical, communication, and reliability – is to tell a compelling story when asked to describe a past accomplishment. Instead of simply relaying what you did, try to demonstrate how you think: Explain the event, what needed to be done, the obstacles you encountered, and how you analyzed the appropriate data and then reliably communicated the results to decision-makers.

In recent interviews, I’ve been most impressed by candidates who described a security problem that they identified and that big data could potentially lend insight to, performed some modeling, and were able to articulate actionable insights based on their analysis.

Job seekers in cybersecurity will do well to demonstrate their expertise in data analytics and machine learning while also highlighting their communication skills. Companies are looking for trustworthy, strong communicators with multi-faceted skillsets who can adapt easily to fast-changing situations.

[ How can automation free up more staff time for innovation? Get the free eBook: Managing IT with Automation. ] 

Mike O’Malley is VP of Strategy at Radware. He brings 20 years of experience in strategy, product and business development, marketing, M&A and executive management to Radware. Mike is responsible for leading strategic initiatives for wireless, wireline and cloud service providers.

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