It’s no secret cyber security is a hot topic across the globe. Seemingly every time you turn on the news you hear a story about a massive data breach or hacked institution. The world clearly needs more cyber security professionals to keep these threats at bay, and it’s a job you’ve always considered pursuing. But how can you know if a cyber security career is the right choice for you?
Not everyone is born with the inherent qualities that lend themselves well to the profession. Understanding some of the common characteristics that the best cyber security pros share can help you determine if you’ve got what it takes to stand alongside them. We created this list to help you discover if you’re naturally wired to work in this field.
You should consider a career in cyber security if…
1. You’re a digital native
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who’ve spent their lives using computers and know a little bit about how these devices and the networks they’re connected to work should fare well in this field. If you have experience working a help desk or other entry-level information technology jobs, you may find the transition to a cyber security career is a natural step.
2. You’re good at identifying what could go wrong
Do you naturally think ahead and imagine how a plan could run into trouble or fail? While this may be a frustrating personality trait for your friends and family to deal with, this skepticism actually comes in handy for cyber security experts. A network’s defenses are only as good as its weakest point, so having the natural mindset to sniff out what could go wrong can help when identifying vulnerabilities or planning changes to network infrastructure.
3. You’re realistic
The flip side to being able to predict what might go wrong with any given situation or setup is knowing the realistic and reasonable response is to address it. Michael Herrick, founder of HIPAA.host, says practicality can be underrated.
“You might think someone with an overactive imagination would be helpful, but I have found it counter-productive,” Herrick says. “They don't have an ability to assess risk realistically and their recommendations end up being so extreme that no rational person will implement them.”
For example, it’s true that requiring employees to create a 30-character password that must be changed twice per month would be safer than a less strict security policy. But the level of effort and goodwill you’d spend to make it happen could hurt your clout when trying to implement other, more impactful security measures.
“When you make ridiculous recommendations, people get the idea that security is impossible and hopeless,” Herrick adds.
4. You’ve got an eye for detail
It’s not uncommon for cyber security experts to deal with log files containing thousands of entries requiring review and configuration information from hundreds of devices, says Robert Gaines, Senior Manager at Accume Partners. Despite the potentially massive amount of information to comb through, a cyber security analyst needs to maintain a strong focus on getting the details right.
“Lack of detail can be disastrous not only in an analyst’s ability to read and analyze data, but to communicate specifically what needs to be done,” Gaines explains. “An incorrect command sent to a device, or a single misspelling in a line of code could be disastrous.”
Small mistakes can lead to a world of trouble for cyber security professionals—a single oversight could cost organizations thousands or even millions of dollars in damage.
5. You’re curious
Do you like taking things apart to gain a better understanding of how it works? Do you love watching shows like How It’s Made? That natural curiosity can come in quite handy in a cyber security career.
“New applications and devices require testing and an understanding of how they integrate with the current environment,” Gaines says. “Because security is a constantly shifting landscape, the IT staff needs to understand how items integrate and communicate with each other.”
6. You like new challenges
A healthy appetite for change can be a big plus for anyone in this field. New exploits and security issues are constantly popping up for cyber security professionals to address, which means you’ll need to be willing to adapt and learn how to tackle new problems on a regular basis. It can be a bit stressful to not know what may come next, but there’s also a sense of satisfaction that comes from understanding and resolving previously unknown issues.
7. You’re methodical
“Security incidents and issues can be exceptionally complex,” Gaines explains. “An effective cyber security professional uses multiple tools to support facts and validate conclusions; relying on a single tool can be disaster if there are unknown blind spots.”
Things are not always what they seem when it comes to cyber security issues or attacks. Hackers are clever and are constantly seeking ways to mask what is truly going on. You’ll need to approach issues methodically to figure out what actually happened and provide the proper documentation on how to prevent similar attacks in the future.
8. You’re a strong communicator
One easily overlooked trait that can be incredibly valuable in this career is the ability to explain complex problems in an understandable way. Christopher Wright, owner of Citadel Systems, says it’s important to be able to communicate with people of all levels of technical expertise.
Besides communicating with your technical peers, you’ll also need to justify your work or decisions to business executives who have very little technical knowledge, according to Wright. “The security professional who can take an extremely technical concept, explain it in non-technical terms and put a persuasive argument in the mix will be more successful at getting approval and funding from those executives.”
Gaines adds that sometimes you’ll have to adjust your communications on the fly. “Often [the audience’s technical knowledge] is not known before a presentation, so they need to be able to read the room for nonverbal feedback.”
Is a cyber security career right for you?
Does the list of qualities and traits above sound like you? You might just be a natural fit for a cyber security career. If you’d like to learn more about this booming niche of the tech industry, check out our article, “5 Things You Should Know About a Career in Cybersecurity.”