A council employee who processed car parking fines and a former university lecturer have gained official recognition for their top cyber security skills, as efforts to bridge the cyber skills gap continue.
They were just two of a total of 31 students to complete the Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) scheme, having been invited to take part in the eight-week training course run by the SANS Cyber Academy.
The 31 were chosen from 25,000 candidates who applied online via a series of aptitude tests run by the Academy, as a means to uncover those who have the necessary cyber talents for roles in the industry, but may not have realised it.
Ross Bradley, who previously worked for Newcastle City Council for 15 years processing car parking fines, was the top performer on the course but said he had not even been sure it was worth his time applying.
“I was wary of quitting my job and starting the Academy, especially when I saw that people working in forensics and with degrees were going. I thought to myself, ‘I don’t have a degree, I just work for the council’, but I’m glad I went.”
Similarly, Kate Booth who quit her job as a university lecturer, said the course was a great way to not only find hidden talent, but also encourage females to consider cyber security as a career.
“The course is great because it includes people of all ages and backgrounds that haven’t followed the usual route to cyber security and doesn’t just look at existing skills but also capability and potential.
“It’s a great model for supporting women into the industry, avoiding traditional routes which can be quite male-centric. Half the population are women so we are missing the talents of a lot of people.”
Steve Jones, UK managing director of the SANS Cyber Academy, said Kate and Ross were exactly the sort of people the course was designed to uncover.
“That someone who has never worked in the profession has such potential is proof that the cyber professionals we need are out there, but the current system is failing to find and nurture them,” he said.
Given the pressing need for cyber security experts it’s not surprising that those who have completed the course are already being snapped up by cyber security firms.
One firm on the look-out for skilled staff is e2e, with its head of cyber development, Jim Fox, saying the firm was like a “kid in a candy shop” trying to pick up talented staff to fill its ranks.
“The Academy is like the Harvard Business School for cyber – you know the graduates are going in based on their aptitude, and will be going through the best training possible.”
The need for skilled cyber staff is rising all the time as businesses facing every increasing threats to their operations from numerous sources, ranging from nation-state hackers to criminal groups, intent on stealing data and disrupting operations.