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Cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing fields, not just in computer science but arguably in all industries. What is even more fascinating is that no matter how many newly trained cybersecurity professionals emerge each day, there is still a need for many more. The industry is in dire need of people, not only with the knowledge but also with the passion to make the cyber-world a safer place for everyone.

What Makes Cybersecurity So Attractive?

It is more than just the blinking lights and the clandestine nature of security. We spoke with a group of cybersecurity professionals, and it is clear that part of the allure of cybersecurity is that, unlike many other professions, there is no pure path into the profession. Cybersecurity practitioners come from a variety of unpredictable and often unlikely industries. Here are just a few of their stories:

Fareedah Shaheed | (@CyberFareedah) | LinkedIn

Information Technology was my major in college. It was extremely boring. So my father said, “Hey, there’s something called cybersecurity. It’s not really new, but the concept in terms of having a degree and is widely known as new. You’re a Muslim woman. You’re black. It’s going to be something where you’re not going to have a lot of representation, but you’d be someone who would bring a lot to the field.” So I researched it for four months, and I changed my major. Shortly after that, I opted out of college, I got an internship at a corporation, and that was where I got real-world experience with cybersecurity. I worked in threat intelligence and cybersecurity awareness. I love cybersecurity awareness the most. I realized that what I needed to create a real impact was to create a business.

Gary Hibberd | (@AgenciGary) | LinkedIn

It started a long time ago, actually when I was around 14 or 15 years old. I saw a film called War Games. The film is all about a young Matthew Broderick who hacks into the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and almost starts World War Three. He thinks he’s only playing a computer simulation. When I saw that movie, it introduced me to a world that I’d never seen before and a world of possibilities. I wasn’t interested in hacking into NORAD or anywhere like that, but I was interested in this new world. From that moment on, I did everything I could to learn about computers, computer programming, and networks. I wanted to understand how they worked and how I could control them. So, that’s when I started in cybersecurity, and I haven’t looked back. In a strange way, I still look at our modern world of cyber risks and realize we are still playing ‘WarGames.’

Jessica Barker | (@drjessicabarker) | LinkedIn

Yeah, I can tell you quite clearly because it wasn’t an interest that I recognized on my own. I didn’t so much sort of decide I wanted to work in cybersecurity. I was essentially headhunted for a job in the industry after I finished my PhD in a totally different subject. I received a PhD in civic design, having studied sociology and politics before, and I worked in urban regeneration. In my PhD, I was looking at the idea of the internet economy, examining technology and society in a high-level way, not security. Then, I was approached for a job in cybersecurity. I searched for a definition of what cybersecurity is, and thought, “Well, this is a really technical job. What on earth does this have anything to do with me?” But, the more I read about it, the more interesting and challenging I thought a cybersecurity profession looked. I love a challenge, and the more I looked at it, the more I could see that of course people are central to it. So I thought I’d take a chance. And the company that was hiring me wanted to take a chance on me and bring in someone with a different, more human-based perspective. That was 10 years ago, and I’ve never looked back really.

Maurice Uenuma | LinkedIn

I took an unusual path into the cybersecurity industry. Most of my background as it relates to security was really tied to military operations, physical security, and executive protection. I spent 13 years in uniform, four years at the Naval academy, and nine years in the Marine Corps. Then, as a kind of a second career, I went into the IT services industry, and that’s where I began to learn and delve into really the central nervous system of modern-day life, being IT information systems. Over time, I was able to fuse that all together, and that fusion was completed when I worked at the Council on Cybersecurity, which we merged with the Center for Internet Security; and subsequently at Tripwire. Now, I’m hooked.

Tanya Janca | (@shehackspurple) | LinkedIn

I took the weirdest path into cybersecurity. I was a software developer, and in 2008, I got hired by the Canadian Department of Justice. They threw me into security and anti-terrorism stuff. I really didn’t like it at all because terrorism’s very scary. I thought that I didn’t like security at all. I went back to software development after a year of that, and then, many years later, I met someone who was a penetration tester. He was just like this cool guy.

He suggested that I should work in security. After my past experience, I still thought that security was lame. But then, an even stranger twist occurred. We were both musicians playing in different bands. One day, I went up to him, and I told him that my band wrote this song called, “Mandatory Dance Party.” I wanted to write a mobile app where if two people have the mobile app, it’ll just start alerting them that they are near another person with the app, and then they have to have a dance party on the spot. Imagine that in the middle of the grocery store! They would play a song, and the phone that detected the most movement would make that person the dance party winner.  

My friend wanted to help write the app, and while the app never materialized, he convinced me to join the security field and introduced me to lots of cool people. Then, I joined the OWASP chapter, and I just completely fell in love with OWASP, the security community, and all the amazing projects and people. And then it was too late for me. I became a penetration tester for around two years, and then I discovered application security. That role between the developers and the security team where you teach them, still get to do testing, but also do code review and build cool DevOps pipelines and stuff like that was really attractive. Isn’t that a weird way into a security profession?

Cybersecurity: A Community for All

The next time you meet a cybersecurity professional, rather than asking about the latest newsworthy breach or their favorite evasion techniques, take a moment and ask about their journey that ultimately landed them in the cybersecurity field. If you are not already a member of the community, or if you are not fully convinced that this is a place and a profession to last you for a career, their stories may change your mind. All are welcome here!