This is a really hard place to give advice, whether you are fresh out of school, university or even a mid career change. I will tell you why I feel this is difficult to answer! You may be unsure/apprehensive about where to invest your energy, so without a clear intent I can only give some pointers on how to get started! You should try to do things in areas outside of your comfort zone, it helps having someone you can ask and hopefully get a good answer that unblocks your attempt (build connections on linkedin), when we get stuck often we give up after x attempts. I’m certainly someone who has started more projects than they have completed, they all have value in building knowledge and experiences that I can draw upon in new projects that are successful.
So my first piece of key advice is to never give up, every failed attempt is a new lesson learned, failing faster is learning faster, sometimes you have to wait a day or maybe even years for that eureka moment that solves any given problem, keep reading, keep iterating until you find success.
My second piece of key advice is to keep great notes, I’m often guilty of neglecting this piece of advice, but if you kept a note of your steps (including any commands entered and why you used them), I would even go as far as recording the software versions, os versions, dates, etc. Because you will learn that alot of howto articles often no longer work years later! Quite often there is no date on the article, so you cannot tell if it is current. What tends to break is newer packages may break backwards compatibility as new features are introduced. So you may find alot of your time is consumed debugging articles and hunting for snippets of code/instructions that unblock your journey to success. If you have kept higher quality notes you will find debugging them down the line much easier and faster.
My third piece of key advice is to build presence, Many moons ago it was all about the curriculum vitae, this was/is where most discrimination is applied, everyone will give you conflicting advice about your CV, however the first page or even first quarter of it is where you need to be poppin out from the crowd, you have so little space to convey your key message. Treat this space as your marketing pitch, you need a good punchy sentence or two to draw the reader in.
- Establish your presence on linkedin, treat this like your full history CV and add it to your paper CV, I record all my training and certification here too!
- Establish your presence on github, this will be where you can showcase your project work! You will need to build your portfolio by taking on challenges or complete training webinars! The fact you are doing this off your own back and in your own time shows your dedication towards being a successful problem solver in the domain you choose to pursue. Make sure the work is of a high quality (I am also guilty of not following my own advice here and time vs quality is key for you to make a great first impression), this is also your marketing material, add your best projects to your paper CV and linkedin.
What I can tell you is the people who excel in our Industry are self starters, self motivated individuals who do not fear failure or to ask questions, the more questions you ask the better understanding you will gain, regardless of how simple or daft you or someone else may feel, because there will always be someone in the crowd too afraid to ask the same questions. So what is your mindset? Convey that in you CV! it may even be a deciding factor in which path you choose to follow. Research ‘Fixed mindset’ vs ‘Growth mindset’. Each has their own role and purpose to fulfil (you can be what you want, when you want, nothing is truly set in stone), one mindset will make for great managers, auditors and analyst’s the other for great engineers, developers and innovators.
Try before you buy, this helps you get a feel for whats involved and helps you decide if you enjoy and get satisfaction from your efforts.
- Hacking/coding/GRC Challenges and competitions.
- TODO: list some resources
- Webinar/online training courses, many can be found for free or have free trials you can leverage (some with course completion certificates that you can add to your linkedin).
- TODO: list some resources
- Read books on topics that peak your interest (do keep a record of books you have read or started on your linkedin).
- You will need to draw upon the try before you buy actions to stand out from the crowd and land your placement, it’s tough to get noticed at this stage.
- Final year, you can offer your time pro bono to companies, find a local firm or startup as they will be keen to leverage your time, strike a bargain where you can showcase your talents openly (avoid IP or NDA lockin) and gain a reference.
- Mid career change:
- I have switched track countless times as new topics have peaked my interest. Again the try before you buy section will help you build your portfolio, but do try to top it off and gain an industry recognised certification to seal the deal and instill self confidence.
- Cyber Security Paths
- The Linux Foundation
- TLF career path chart
- Comptia Paths
- ISC2 Paths
- TODO: list some GRC/Management/PM resources
There is a vast trove of information on the internet, alot is freely available. I have tried to be concise to avoid overwhelming the reader and convey what I feel in my opinion is important for you to begin your career and be successful, your attitude and how you treat others will also set you up for a lasting career, be kind. Get in touch if you need clarification or have further questions.