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Thinking About a Cyber Career? Just Jump In

June 18, 2018 - 21 Comments

If you care about cyber security and you’re willing to work hard, we need you. Yes, YOU. The cybersecurity challenge is huge and there is a great need for people with diverse backgrounds to help solve it. Your path can originate in different places. For me, I didn’t start out intending to be a security engineer, but influences along my journey brought me to a role that I love and that taps into my natural interests and abilities.

I began my career as a web designer. When I was in college my favorite professor happened to be teaching a class in cryptography. He suggested I take it, so I did, and found it fascinating. That same professor was teaching another class called Ethical Hacking; I took that too, and then I was hooked.  Being a natural problem solver with a penchant for math, I found a lot of synergy with computer science. There’s not much grey area―it works or it doesn’t.  I discovered that I enjoy breaking technology and then experimenting with solutions to make it work safely again.

I’d given just a bit of thought to cyber security because of my concerns about privacy and where businesses were holding my data. This was something my inner problem-solver cared about!  I decided to attend the 2015 Grace Hopper Women in Technology conference; and there I was fortunate to meet folks from Cisco who ended up recruiting me to take a job in cryptography. That required a big move – from Colorado to RTP, North Carolina; but I went for it, and it has worked out incredibly well!

I’ve now been in R&D for the Cisco Security and Trust Organization for two years. Our group has a big mission – to be Cisco’s single point of trust for security software – that is, offering safe, trusted common modules that product teams across all BU’s can use instead of having to reinvent every time. It’s technically challenging because our code must work for the hundreds of product teams our company has. There is a lot of cross-functional collaboration involved.

The year-and-a-half-long learning curve for Cisco’s many product lines was a heavy lift, but my manager provided good insights and helped me build a solid foundation. In fact, the whole culture at Cisco is supportive: if you want to learn something, go learn it. That’s especially important because there’s always something new to understand with the fast pace of change in the cybersecurity world. With two years of experience now under my belt, I find that I continually get more efficient at learning, finding new solutions, and pulling in new tools to work more efficiently.

One of my favorite aspects of my job is teaming with a core cyber group in RTP who does a lot of outreach to kids.  It’s refreshing to step back and get perspective by talking with them. Even if a young person doesn’t think they want a cyber-career, everyone needs at least some cyber knowledge to keep themselves safe. We try to show them that it can be fun. So many people get intimidated by the prospect of a cyber-job, but learning about it from an earlier age can really help dispel that fear. You don’t need to be scared away by any pre-conceptions you have or pre-qualifications you feel you don’t have; this field is not about check boxes.

Just getting your feet wet is the best way to start. Look up videos online; read and learn; smaller conferences may even offer content online for free. Find people on Twitter, where there is a very active security-minded community. Follow CISOs and cyber experts; search hash tags like #infosec, #cybersecurity and #crypto. Expand your local network by attending Meetups or other area events. The white hat hacking and cyber community tends to be very supportive and open. There’s a whole universe of information for the asking.

Solving cyber takes a village. With any background, there’s a job in cyber you could fill. In fact, the diverse backgrounds are what make us better. It’s a simple first step, but if everyone took it we’d be that much further along.  Yes, you will have to work hard at it. I do, and you can too. Hard problems are the good ones to get past.


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  1. Hi Ellie,
    Great article it openEd my eyes for cyber security.
    Keep on doing.
    For your tips
    A big hug.

  2. Hi Ellie:Hope you are doing good.The article is awesome.I am a Cyber Security professional.Certified in CEH and CISA (passed exam).Do you have any opportunities available in Delhi NCR for security.I m interested for same.

  3. I am a Certified Ethical Hacker from EC-Council. Do you have any job openings. Thank you.

  4. This was a great article, and as someone who is in school for this field, it was very motivating. I am going to look into Cisco certifications now, thank you for all of this great information!

  5. i would love to enhance my skills in cybersecurity and networking along with ethical hacking. i aspect help from professional people like you guys.

  6. I'm 2017 Btech CSE student seeking for better opportunity.Is there any opportunity for me?

  7. Hi, I earned a Master of Science in Computer Science and still its hard to find work. I've been looking but with no success. I don't know if cyber security is the next step but I took the jump and started the free online course offered by the local community college and ran by Cisco Networking Academy. Thanks for the article, I will continue with this course of action.

  8. I have no background in IT but I find Cybersecurity fascinating and I want to get in, what are the prerequisites?

  9. Excellent Ellie.i want to my career in cyber security

  10. This was very inspiring Ellie! I am involved in security testing in my role and would like to get more knowledge of Cyber.

  11. "Hard problems are the good ones to get past."- A well written article!

  12. Awesome! Very expiring for a person like myself trying to get into cybersecurity.

  13. Well done Ellie! Very well explained!

  14. Absolutely inspiring !

  15. Great article, Ellie!

  16. Ellie,
    Nice article! I still find via Linkedin that Cybersecurity jobs go unfilled. This seems rediculous to me. My Bachelor of Science Degree in Information Technology Security, with a minor in Information Assurance, and a laundry list of Microsoft and CompTIA Certifications, rarely spark any interest as far as job offers. Most people in my former College IT program work in the networking field. Most Cyber Security degrees are just more recycled network courses. You would think people with IT Security degrees would be cherished like in Russia, China, Iran, and even in North Korea! I do have one former classmate who was approahed by Cisco for Cyber Training Scholarship, so at least one company is paying attention!

  17. You are so right. This is a career path that will take a person well into the future. Learning from one of the best, Cisco, is a great future proofing.

  18. It is an interesting path you took and I know that many people have walked similar path for different careers.
    It is a matter of being in the right place at the right moment to spark the curiosity and change direction.

  19. I think a lot of people would benefit from reading this article. All it takes is some planning and a lot of desire to get into this field.