Interview with Walter Cooke, Manager, Cyber Advisory, Difenda. Walter shared his insights on the current cybersecurity job market. He highlighted why soft-skills such as Team Player, Emotional Maturity, and Communication are critical to the cybersecurity professionals.
Walter, welcome to Cyber Career Center. Can you quickly introduce yourself? Who you are? What do you do?
Yeah, my name is Walter Cooke. I am a certified information security professional. I am currently the manager of Difenda in the digital forensics, incident response, and cyber advisory areas. Difenda is a managed information security service organization. We do advisory type consulting services as well.
Walter, you have been in this industry for many many years. So, what do you think about the current cybersecurity job market?
The market is in flux right now.
We’re finding that it’s difficult to find people who have a lot of good experience in the field. We’re finding that we’re actually looking at people from different fields than you normally would.
It seems that many people are happy to jump between jobs these days. If they don’t like the pay they are getting, or they don’t like the the type of work they’re doing, they’re very fluid and very apt to go and look for another job elsewhere. So, a lot of companies now are taking attitude of what else can we do besides just pay people more money to make them happier with the job. Give them more interesting things to do and really motivate them to want to be with the company that they’re involved in.
At Difenda, we’ve been fairly lucky in being able to hang on to a lot of our staff, so we don’t have that much of a turnover. But again, when you are looking for more people, it’s like where do you look? Because everyone is looking in the same places.
All right, so it feels like there’s a lot of demand for the Cyber Talent. People are competing together to get those right talent for them.
Coming to the hiring process, obviously, you also hire quite many people, what are the top three things that you are expecting from a right job candidate?
Well, for job candidates, obviously as you probably look in the multiple ads on Indeed and places like various websites.
For large companies, they’re looking for IT security people, and everybody wants that you have many years of experience, a wide range of knowledge, all the sorts of tools like Splunk, Nessus, etc. Everybody is looking for someone who can both manage projects as well as execute projects. And they want people totally fluent in being able to write really good reports… Of course, we can never find people like that.
But if we really hone down the skill set that we’re looking from people, it’s first of all that they need to be a team player. It doesn’t matter really how much of your skills you bring to the job, but we find if you’re a team player you can pick up the skills you need very quickly. And if you can work with other people to either pick up the lag where there’s extra effort needed, or take leadership roles and working on projects, that’s one of the really main things we’re looking for.
Often if you’re looking at an organization that has a set of policies on how they hire people, usually that’s the job of the human resources department. First they get to hold the resumes, they usually do the first interview with someone, they’re the ones who check and see the things that are on your resume makes sense. Does your previous job role meet with what we’re looking for?
But again, what they are looking is what kind of a fit you are with our organization. Are you a team player? Are you going to get along and play nice with other people? Do you have the kind of mentality and emotional maturity that makes you someone who’s going to work well with?
Yes, there are the basic skill set you need to know. Did you have good academic grades? It’ll be nice if you have a certification like a CISSP or something like that.
As I said before, people who are reasonably intelligent can pick up the tools really quickly, the things they can’t do very easily is pick up the emotional maturity, and the ability to be a team player with the other team members in the organization. So those are two or three big things, I think.
Wonderful! I can see you highlight the soft skill side rather than just the technical side.
Exactly! For example, we had one person who came in and they wanted to do consulting work, which usually means you need to be in the business for quite a few years and you already have all of the skills. But this person actually has not done computer science type work. He was a history student. But in being a history student, his communication skills, his ability to write reports, his ability to get along with and explain things that educate other people (the customers you’d be working with), was fantastic! We found this would be a really good person who filled a consulting role.
So again, it depends on the role you’re filling, whether you need some more with the technical skills or you want someone more with the soft communication skills.