How to get into cyber security with no experience: two perspectives 

Cyber security has quickly risen to prominence to become one of the most in demand tech professions and there’s a good chance it will remain that way for the foreseeable future, with the global cyber security market size expected to reach USD 366.10 billion by 2028. And with the industry suffering a huge skills gap, organisations are searching for cyber security skills.
So, if you’ve considered taking advantage of this market gap, or changing careers and want to move into a cyber security role, we have some tips for how to get a foot on this career path.

What options are out there for getting qualified in cyber security?

Not all cyber security roles require Bachelor-level and above qualifications and with the continued evolution of how institutions are designing learning pathways – there’s many options for those keen to develop skills to start a career in cyber security.
While we will talk about how there are options for getting into cyber security with no experience, there’s also a plethora of options out there for those keen to dip their toe in the industry, with most also realising that many will be transitioning into the profession and offering shorter courses to streamline your journey. TAFE NSW offers are range of options for certified courses including a Certificate IV in Cyber Security which can be completed between six to ten months. There are also additional certifications available that can be completed completely online to extend your qualifications further. It’s easier than ever to jump onto online courses that can be completed around pre-existing work you might be employed in. An establishment like University of Sydney is offering a 24-week boot camp to get you up to speed on cyber security and equip you with fundamental skills needed and even access to tutors for support.
Keep in mind that certifications are incredibly useful if you’re looking to change careers into an entry-level cyber security role, but they should also mainly be seen as supplementations to a full cyber security degree. Employers are drawing on certifications as a way to identify skills in what is still a skills short job market, but experience in a degree is the most critical way you can get your foot in the door. Certifications are there to be the differentiator between you and other candidates.

Stories from those that have done it

In case you haven’t heard of it before, Hays has it’s very own podcast called: ‘How Did You Get That Job?’, where Hays Chief Commercial Officer Shaun Cheatham interviews leaders in the tech sector and gets their own unique insight into a myriad of topics that affect the world of work. In each episode, they share how they’ve got to where they are today, what their role entails, what motivates them and how to start a career in tech. In some cases, they didn’t set out to work in their field at all but found themselves there, enjoyed it and stayed along for the ride. 

We interviewed two tech leaders that shared their unique journey into a career in cyber security.

There’s no right way to get into cyber security

Jessica Nemmers, vCISO at Flair Data Systems didn’t take a traditional route into the technology field. Her first formal training was to be a ballerina in Dallas and performed professionally as part of a troupe. So just how did she go from dancing six days a week in high school to a highly successful career in cyber security? 
As she puts it, her “leap” into technology came by chance. When her ballet company had to fold due to lack of budget, she interviewed for a project in Dallas run by Electronic Data Systems and Hitachi. That gave her a first taste of working in tech, and it led to her applying for another role at Perot Systems. In Jessica’s own words, she “had no skills at all” – but, as she says, she “fell in love with tech.”
Twenty-five years on and she’s moved into cyber and been CISO at two organisations.
John deCraen, the Associate Managing Director for Cyber Advisory Services at consultancy organisation Kroll. Again, his career didn’t start out in cyber security at all, although he did have some experience up his sleeve in data. He too found himself out of work when his previous employer closed down, and a recruiter got him an interview at Alvarez & Marsal. He was reserved about taking the job, initially on contract, but by the end was “not only in love with their services, but the company itself”.
As he says: “It’s never too late to start over again.”

The top skills you need for a career in cyber security

John describes himself at the start of his career in cyber security as a “middle-aged senior associate”, specialising in computer forensics. He was 35 while most of his peers were a decade younger. After almost 17 years at Alvarez & Marsal, John moved to Kroll and found himself in his current role just ten months later.
He attributes his success to the importance of having a strong learning mindset to future-proof your skills. Keeping up with new technologies is necessary in any role, but in cyber, it’s about staying ahead of the bad guys too. That passion for learning is key. Hays Learning is also an invaluable resource for IT courses of all kinds, enabling you to continue upskilling wherever you may find yourself.
Jessica’s transferable skills were of huge help to her. Specifically, she credits her ability to be unfazed by presenting or speaking on stage, as well as her discipline. She also says that her flexibility is a plus.
Initially, she suffered from imposter syndrome as a woman in tech without a formal background. However, her strengths were exactly what the role demanded. In fact, she’s not the only one – she’s since founded a community of former artists and performers that work in cyber.
And there’ll be a lot more where that came from in the future, with businesses making cybersecurity a top priority in 2023, the door is wide open for many to think about switching career paths and entering an industry that will continue to experience exponential growth.

How should you start?

We take a deep dive into this topic in how to change careers, but the same learnings still apply to cyber security. Have a look through the job openings in cyber security roles and see what skills are listed in the criteria. You can then use this to focus your upskilling journey and see what accreditations you’re able to get without having to enter into any formal learning. Also, even though you may have to shift down a couple of levels with a career change, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be starting right at the bottom. As both interviewees demonstrated, you may have some transferable soft skills that are just as highly valued as the technical skillset.

What next?

Want to find out more?
To hear further advice from Jessica and John, listen to our interviews. You’ll be able to find all episodes of the ‘How Did You Get That Job?’ podcast there if you want to continue listening.
Additionally, if you’re looking for a new role, why not get into cyber security? Check out our available jobs in cyber.