Cyber warfare operators serving with the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group of the Maryland Air National Guard at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md., monitor cyber attacks on the operations floor of the 275th Cyber Operations Squadron, known as the Hunter’s Den, Dec. 2, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

What Military Service Brings to the Cybersecurity Table

Though Military Appreciation Month and Memorial Day will not be honored traditionally this year due to social distancing measures, in no way does this minimize the extensive respect and admiration citizens across the U.S. hold for our veterans. As the CEO of a cybersecurity firm who has seen many former military personnel build successful careers in the space, I’d like to spend some time examining the unmatched qualities and skills that these dedicated individuals can bring to the table in our industry.

The most important point to understand is that there’s both the need and opportunity for military personnel to excel in a cybersecurity role. There’s a strong correlation between many of the skills and qualities needed to succeed in the military and in cybersecurity jobs, and this is particularly important given the chronic skills shortage that’s been a huge problem across our industry for years.

Pre-COVID-19 estimates suggested that the number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs was expected to reach 1.8 million globally by 2022, up 50 percent from 2015. And despite the alarming effect the pandemic has had on employment levels in many industries, some reports suggest demand for cybersecurity skills remains strong.

Consider this alongside the challenges of transitioning from the military to a civilian role. VetsinTech, an organization that supports transitioning military and veterans by connecting them to the technology ecosystem, reports that 80 percent of the 250,000 veterans transitioning out of military service every year do so without a civilian job or defined career path. Addressing these issues offers a great opportunity for a win-win, and many of my friends and colleagues leading cybersecurity businesses are fully supportive of hiring former military personnel and empowering them to build their next career.

Without doubt, the value veterans can bring to our industry requires broader recognition, and none of us – employers or prospective employees – should be in any doubt about opening more doors for our military. But let’s be more specific about transferable skills:

  • Collaboration: Finding vulnerabilities or responding to cyberattacks requires teamwork, patience and communication. In teams and across the industry, staying ahead of cybercriminals requires a high level of collaboration and joined-up effort that pulls in the same direction.
  • Leadership: Military veterans moving into cybersecurity roles have frequently built highly successful careers to become team leaders or even CISOs. As seniority in a civilian role increases, leadership qualities become more important, not least of which is understanding the need to set an exemplary standard for colleagues to follow. From basics like punctuality to the ability to think with a clear head and handle tough situations under extreme pressure, being a good leader is a highly sought after skill set.
  • Mission-focused mindset and strategic thinking: Cybersecurity professionals always have a goal in mind, whether it’s a long-term strategy, or an immediate tactical challenge. At the heart of everything they do, however, is a mission to protect their company/customers, and that requires huge levels of dedication and determination.
  • Flexibility: In the ever-evolving and changing technology landscape, cybersecurity pros need to be able to keep up with threat vectors and new solutions used to fight them. Challenges can emerge without warning and have the potential to quickly escalate into a crisis unless those at the sharp end can quickly adapt their approach to counter the risk.

Veterans who have made the career transition successfully will often talk about the advantages offered by their military training, most notably an ability to work under pressure and adhere to tight deadlines. Their strong work ethic and willingness to persevere puts them in a good place to tackle the challenges presented by cybersecurity roles. Many also share some great advice for military personnel with the ambition to move into cybersecurity: don’t sell yourself short, and trust your capabilities.

We are proud to have a strong representation of veterans on our team. The ambitions that took them into the military – whether that was to help others, to protect their nation or to see positive change in the world – are in many ways mirrored by the fight against cybercrime. We value their contribution, and it plays a significant role in the success of the business: Military Appreciation Month is the ideal time to share that with the wider world.

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Craig Hinkley joined WhiteHat Security as CEO in early 2015, bringing more than 20 years of executive leadership in the technology sector to this role. Craig is driving a customer-centric focus throughout the company and has broadened WhiteHat's global brand and visibility beyond the application security space and security buyer to the world of the development organization and a DevSecOps approach to application development. Prior to joining WhiteHat Security, Craig served as vice president and general manager of the LogLogic business unit for TIBCO Software, and before TIBCO, he served as the general manager at Hewlett-Packard for the HP networking business in the Americas. Earlier in his career, Craig held positions at Cisco Systems Inc. and Bank of America.

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