How To Excel in Cybersecurity

HOW TO EXCEL IN CYBERSECURITY

This post contains real-life examples of how I promoted myself towards success and is intended for those whom recently graduated from a Cybersecurity specialty and are struggling to get a job in any position.

Pursuing any career requires not only to know yourself but the market as well. Although some HR coaching experts and career advisers might disagree with me on this, I’d been around long enough to know that if you don’t treat yourself as a marketable product and learn to promote yourself in cybersecurity, you won’t be able to get ahead in your professional career.

This is why having a strategy is important to position yourself between where you want to be and who you need to talk to in order to achieve your goal. Having a step by step marketing plan will materialize this strategy and will give you the guidance and the motivation to follow through to achieve your goal by just following your own plan.

Knowing that a marketing plan to promote yourself is in motion to achieve a professional goal means that you are getting closer to success itself by materializing what you desire most.

Is important that you see your own plan as a project plan. Those of you who are experienced in project planning will understand what I’m saying. Every person you interact with is a “resource” that is going to contribute to your plan. Treat them with respect. Every idea of who you are going to talk to in order to achieve a milestone by completing a task in your project is the equivalent of currency in your budget. Because everyone you interact with has an impact on your overall “cost” of your plan implementation.

Knowing your market

There are several ways to promote a product and there is no difference in the way you promote either a product or yourself. To promote anything you need to know and understand the market you are getting into and find what the market is missing.

The key here is finding what the market is missing and you can only achieve this by understanding the market. Take your time in understanding the market you want to do your research on and don’t just limit yourself by looking at the statistical numbers. The statistical numbers can only explain what has happened by using the historical data, but won’t tell you how this happened or who are the missing players in the grand scheme.

You have to get to your own conclusions by deduction by using the data in front of you. By deducing the how and who the missing players are, you can reap the opportunity right in front of you by creating the plan I just mentioned.

Let the world know you exist

After you developed the plan now is time to execute it. It all begins by talking to people. If you need to know how a particular subject is doing you go and talk to the person who either knows about it or has lived through it. Usually, talking to someone who has lived through a particular experience gives you a different perspective on things.

To let the world know that you exist requires you to change things that have deterred you from progressing. You need to put your shyness aside and start networking with people if you want to get ahead in your career. You have to do things in unconventional ways.

You’ll see an example of what I mean later. You can’t be afraid of the “what ifs” or the “what would this or that person think”, because the truth is, that person has their own things to worry about and the only thing they will see in you is “What can you contribute with”.

This is when you leverage the opportunity and let them know how you can contribute and what are your skills and experiences. Our goal here is to “Amaze” the person in front of you without being arrogant, but by showing a genuine interest in bringing value to the company.

We have tools today I wished we had 25 years ago when I first started, but still it all worked out for me.

Would I change my formula today now that we have more ways to promote ourselves? The answer is No. I’ll do the same things, except that I’ll add more ways to market my “persona”.

Here is an example of what would I do today if I were you.

If you have a technical background, like myself, I would use Facebook and Twitter to market myself as an asset that will add value to the company that would hire me. Let me show you how.

OSINT Gathering

Using OSINT strategy to do research is very helpful. OSINT stands for Open Source INTelligence. This is one of my favorite specialization within the cybersecurity profession. It uses information publicly available to do research and obtain information about your target.

After I gathered as much information as possible, I would target these companies and interest groups by creating a Facebook page about me with a Portfolio of all the projects, research papers I’ve written and contributed to, places I’ve worked at and the experiences I have.

A very nice page indeed. Make it look professional.

Then I would create an ad about me which will literally say “Hire me” and why. This ad will target a very specific group filtered by interests, which will increase the number of impressions (amount of time an ad will appear in someone’s timeline) and let it run. The reason for doing this in this way is so that you can be selected and hired above other people. You must excel and let yourself be seen by the people that you want to be hired.

If you do things the same way that others do, then everyone does the same and everyone will have the same odds to be hired, but mathematically speaking, it decreases your chances of being hired since everyone has the same percentage of probabilities and nobody stands out with a higher value. Increase your chances by doing things differently. Do not refrain yourself from doing what others do to promote themselves. You will not excel.

For example, let say I want to work at XYZ company. I gather as much information about the company and if possible who are the companies that refer candidates to them, but mostly the XYZ company. Usually, you can find this on Twitter and other places. With Linkedin, you can search by the certification name that the job you are looking for requires. This will bring you the people who have it and where they are working at.

Then, target your ad in Facebook to XYZ company and the people who work and worked there or liked the company, and of course, the country. Finally, let it run.

This is the method I use to promote my businesses with very good results. Do not give up if it doesn’t work at first. It took me a while to understand how the process of using Facebook Ads worked until I mastered it.

Trust me, people will know your face and name.

Next step, prepare for an interview. When interviewing for a company looking for someone with a technical background, the approach will be weird sometimes, but there is a reason for this. If you are looking for a technical position, be prepared to answer questions in a technical way.

I suggest you look for specialists who are certified in coaching people for interviews. They can be very helpful by providing you with tips and mock interviews for any scenario.

Now, you will see examples of how exactly I did this which allowed me to achieve the goals in my business venture and in my professional career as well. I’m sharing this with you not to show off, but to tell you that anything is possible if you have a plan.

Promoting a Product

For example, my wife and I use to own an Ice Cream business, which we grew into a niche in itself to differentiate it from the competition. The way we did this was by studying the market and its population. There were those focusing on creating more than 31 flavors (Yeah, you know who I’m talking about) or creating a colorful eye appealing product made of sinful taste that should be illegal to sell (The goal of every Ice Cream Parlor). My wife and I took a different approach.

What Was Missing

After we studied the market thoroughly, we observed that even though there was a lot of competition, there was a sector of the population that was being neglected. We also observed that it was a large sector with a lot of potentials and the way we stood out was by targeting the diabetic population.

The Plan

My wife used her experience in the field of Health Education and Promotion from which she earned her Master’s degree, MS. She also happens to be certified in diabetes education, and took that knowledge and experience and applied it to how she could contribute best which was by creating a product line targeted to the diabetic population.

We developed a product which replaced the sugars in the form of lactose and replaced it with protein and basically, we created a product with no sugar added while at the same time retaining the same flavors and taste our brand was known for. Later, we sold the business for a profit to pursue other interests.

By combining my wife’s experience in Health Education and Promotion and in Sciences (she also has a B.S. in Sciences) we were able to create a plan which guided us to reach a goal we were striving for.

Promoting Yourself

Another example and this time is about how I did promote myself after I graduated in 1994 at the age of 21 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Sciences. I went to the largest local newspaper company and observed that they had an opening to work on the third shift to insert the many store shoppers and coupons people love to see in the daily newspaper. I went for an interview and began working the same week with people that either only had a high school diploma or less.

The Plan

I didn’t care the education level of my peers or where I landed to work, because what I saw when I was looking at the job offer was the potential of what could be done, meaning, what was missing. After a month of working at the company, I requested to work as a temp in the different departments, from Accounting, Purchasing, Production, Human Resources, etc. My goal was to identify what was missing from every department until I found the golden nugget.

What Was Missing

The element I found in common was that this company worked 24×7 and didn’t have an HR Representative for the second and third shifts. I took this knowledge, prepared myself with a speech and as a concerned employee, I went straight to the HR Vice President of the company, without an appointment (Bold move, I know!).

Whenever I make a decision like this I always think in two extremes: What’s the worst that could happen and the potential of everything going my way. Is a better version for the old saying “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best”, don’t you think?

Guess what, it went my way and more!. Two weeks later the VP called me and asked me if I wanted to help him implement my ideas to assist the employees from the second and third shifts, and gave me a full-time job in the HR department.

All the time I invested in the plan and following it step by step paid off after I was called by the HR VP and offered me a full-time position in the company, which I didn’t have before. I don’t look for existing doors to knock on them or wait for others to open them for me. I create my own door, I knock it and I open it. It’s what I do and it has worked well for me so far.

Don’t wait for others to do something for you or for something to exist for you to pursue success. It’s your turn to create the moment for you to create your own path and find your success.

After a while, I decided to apply the same plan to another goal. I noticed that even though there was an IT department, it couldn’t provide the level of support the users in the company deserved, so again I applied my knowledge in IT and began looking for things that were missing, and built my knowledge from there until I resigned as I started to get better offers in other places in the IT world.

I followed this same strategy over and over because it worked for me. Prior to working in the Pharmaceutical industry, if you look at my resume you’ll notice something peculiar. Most of the companies I was working with, except for one, were start-ups. This gave me a level of exposure no other company would. All my jobs prior to the Pharmaceutical industry, lasted no more than a year, because of the many opportunities I had to grow in the IT world. The only steady job I had was with Wyeth Ayerst Pharmaceutical, which merged with Pfizer.

I created a plan to learn anything and everything related to systems and network security, even before the term cybersecurity was coined. I applied all of this into the Pharmaceutical world, which gave me another level of exposure.

My point here is that the way you can land a job or get ahead in your professional career or in business is by making a plan which should include a checklist of whatever experiences you may have that you can contribute with and see how it applies to what you want to contribute into. Use this experience to develop the steps to conquer your dream job or to gather more knowledge from a market you are researching! 

A person can do anything with a plan and if you center your focus on what you want and desire the most, it will materialize. I’ve seen it and so will you.

This is how I got started and pursued a career in a field that later would be known as Cybersecurity.

by Edgar Vera, MS Cybersecurity



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