The Characteristics and Skills You Need as a Cybersecurity Pro

What is Necessary for a Successful InfoSec Career

So, you want to get your foot in the door of the cybersecurity industry. Or maybe you’re a junior practitioner in the field wondering what skills you need to develop for the future. Even further, maybe you’re a seasoned professional looking to see how you stack up against the competition. Regardless of who you are, this blog post can offer some tips and information to answer your burning questions.

With the cybersecurity industry continuing to boom — even during a global pandemic — more and more people see a career in InfoSec as an attractive one. But what characteristics should you work on to succeed? What technical skills are the most important for you to develop? And what are the first steps you should take to jumpstart your career path? Let’s talk about it.

If you’re a cybersecurity pro looking for an information security management platform, look no further than PlexTrac! To learn more about the PlexTrac platform, download our Platform Overview eBook or schedule a demo with our team.

What Are the Characteristics of a Successful Security Pro?

The first topic we’ll discuss today are the soft skills and personal characteristics you may already have or should develop when working in the cybersecurity industry. We’ll be walking through each of these and discussing why they’re so important. Here are three of the most important soft skills for cybersecurity professionals:

Adaptable

One of the most important characteristics to have in the field is adaptability. Nefarious attackers do not play by the rules set by the good guys, and they’re constantly learning new ways to succeed in their quest for information. The field is a fast-paced one that is consistently growing in complexity, and this growth requires employees to grow with it. Additionally, attacks may come at any time and from any direction. As a security pro, especially on the Blue Team, your ability to adapt will be vital to minimize damage done by attackers breaching your network.

Collaborative

The honest truth is that you can’t defend your most precious (and biggest) assets alone. If you work in an enterprise, you will inevitably have a team of practitioners around you that you must communicate with, work alongside, and align your remediation efforts with. Teams are only able to work efficiently when all their moving parts are both doing their job well and communicating clearly with the rest of the group. Being team-oriented means because able to work cohesively alongside others, develop work that can be easily understood by your teammates, and be able to give and receive feedback on the work you and your team does.

Strong Work Ethic

A strong work ethic is vital to success in InfoSec. This work ethic combined with a curiosity for knowledge and an eagerness to learn is a winning combination for a security pro. The cybersecurity industry is a complex one with many moving pieces. Even the most experienced professionals must continue to learn new tactics and techniques if they want to stay ahead of the competition. So, in addition to being adaptable and team-oriented, you need to develop a work ethic and constant hunger to get better at your job.

If you develop and maintain these soft skills, you are on the right track for success. However, in a highly technical industry like cybersecurity, it’s not enough to only have the soft skills necessary for the job.

What Skills Are the Most Important to Develop?

Soft skills, like the ability to adapt, a willingness to be team oriented, and the drive of a strong work ethic are all important. However, there’s an equal or even greater need for you to develop your technical skills in cybersecurity. Here are some of the most important technical skills to develop before entering and while integrating into the field:

Understanding System Architecture

If you’re going to be working in an InfoSec job focused on technology, you should have an understanding of the various operating systems available to professionals, including Windows, Mac, and the various Linux distributions. This understanding should be of both the system architecture and the management and administration of these operating systems as a whole. You should especially focus on understanding the security aspects of these operating systems, like their firewalls and network load balancers.

Learning Programming Languages

While not everyone in the cybersecurity industry is a coder, you will most likely work with code in some capacity. This fact is why it’s important for you to develop at least a basic understanding of the many programming languages. The most important languages to understand include Java, C, C++, and the many scripting languages (like PHP and Python, among others). Having this understanding and continuing to develop it will be vital to your career advancement, as it gives you a better understanding of what you’re protecting and the tools in your toolkit to remediate gaps in your security program.

Obtaining Cybersecurity Certifications

A popular prerequisite for many jobs in cybersecurity are certifications, and it’s become obvious why. These certifications, in addition to a degree in computer science or another related field, show employers that you have a baseline of knowledge in the field. Think of cybersecurity certifications, especially the entry level ones, as a sort of pre-test to the job you’ll be doing once you are hired. We have written a blog on cybersecurity certifications already, but here are some of the most important to have:

  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • Certified Information Security Auditor (CISA)
  • Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • And many more!

What Are the First Steps to Jumpstart Your Cybersecurity Career Path?

While there is no one way to make a living in cybersecurity, there are certain hoops that most people have to jump through before you’re pen testing and conducting purple teaming engagements. The two biggest hoops for individuals to jump through are obtaining knowledge and experience in the cybersecurity field.

Knowledge of the Industry

Like previously stated, the cybersecurity industry is a complex one. You cannot simply walk into a cybersecurity job without preparation and succeed. However, the path to obtaining this knowledge is nonlinear. The most straightforward option is going to college. Most universities offer some sort of cybersecurity program nowadays, a path which theoretically leads to landing a job. However, it’s not the only way.

If putting yourself into debt obtaining a degree isn’t a realistic option, a more nonlinear approach to obtaining knowledge is self-studying and obtaining cybersecurity certifications without a degree. While many entry level cybersecurity jobs require a related bachelor’s degree, not all do. This is why it’s important to conduct research about what type of security job you’re after and create a plan based on your goal.

(Note: Some jobs may require both a degree and security certifications. Other jobs may require neither a degree nor a certification, but ALL security jobs will have you show off your knowledge of the industry in some capacity.)

Experience in the Industry

While knowledge is great, experience is even better. If you’re someone looking to break into the cybersecurity industry, experience is the best way to stand out from your contemporaries. Most job candidates will have some baseline knowledge of the field, but a killer internship, apprenticeship, or job will have you hired in no time.

Experience isn’t easy to obtain, though. Internships and jobs, especially in a booming industry, are very competitive. Our advice at PlexTrac is to look to the resources you have at your disposal and take advantage of them. Most universities have internship programs in the field or can get you in touch with outside employers looking to hire students. Additionally, if you’re foregoing a degree, you can look online for opportunities.

Cybersecurity is not running low with available jobs, as the talent shortage is well documented. So, a candidate with a little knowledge and a baseline of soft skills should have little trouble finding a way to get their foot in the door.

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