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EPISODE 110
Am I Too Old to Do a Career Change into Cybersecurity?

AM I TOO OLD TO DO A CAREER CHANGE INTO CYBERSECURITY?

About this episode

In this episode, hosts Kip Boyle and Jason Dion discuss the topic of ageism in cybersecurity careers. They address a listener’s question about whether it is too late for a career change into cybersecurity at the age of 60-65. The hosts acknowledge that ageism does exist in the industry, but they provide tips and strategies for older individuals to overcome this challenge.

First, they advise career changers to identify their transferable skills and highlight them on their resumes. They also recommend choosing job titles carefully, avoiding entry-level positions that may be more suited for younger candidates. Instead, older individuals should target higher-level positions that align with their experience and expertise.

The hosts also discuss the importance of addressing ageism during the interview process. They suggest talking about new technologies and demonstrating a willingness to adapt and embrace change. Additionally, they advise older candidates to choose employers wisely, considering organizations that value and appreciate the skills and experience they bring to the table.

Overall, the episode provides practical advice for older individuals looking to transition into cybersecurity careers and navigate the challenges of ageism in the industry.

  • Am I too old to do a career change into cybersecurity?
  • What are some strategies to overcome age-related challenges when pursuing a career change into cybersecurity?
  • Should I highlight my transferable skills when changing careers?
  • What should older individuals consider when targeting job positions in the cybersecurity field?

Relevant websites for this episode

Episode Transcript

 

Kip Boyle:

Hi everyone. Kip Boyle here. This is Your Cyber Path, welcome. Glad to have you here. And Jason Dion’s here. Hey, Jason. How’s it going?

Jason Dion:

Hey, Kip. Great to be here again.

Kip Boyle:

I’m glad you’re feeling better. Jason was not feeling so hot lately, just had a little cold or flu or something like that. And I felt bad for him because he was on a cruise and he was laid out and sick on the cruise. He looked so miserable, and yet at the same time he was in his happy place. So I don’t know, I guess that’s all right, right?

Jason Dion:

It wasn’t too bad. Luckily I was only down for about 24 hours, but I got over it pretty quickly.

Kip Boyle:

Yeah, that’s great. And here you are, just bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. So we’re ready to go. All right everybody. So Jason got this really interesting question lately and we decided we’re going to turn that into a podcast episode because we have not talked too much about this topic. Jason, why don’t you tell us about this question, where you got it from and set the stage?

Jason Dion:

Yeah, so we got this question from one of our listeners, and I’m not going to actually call out their name because it is kind of a sensitive question. But the question is, am I too old to do a career change into cybersecurity? And just to give you some context, the person who asked this is an older gentleman living in the Pacific Northwest, so Seattle, Oregon kind of part of the US, over there. And he’s around 60, 65 years old. So he’s an older gentleman. And really the crux of his question is, there does happen to be this thing of ageism that happens in our industry and is that going to prevent him from getting a job? What can he do to help increase his chances and things like that. So that’s kind of what we’re going to be talking about here. And if you’re younger, this still does apply to you because ageism isn’t just, oh, the person is 60 or over.

I’ve seen ageism happen when you are under 30 and people discriminate against you because you’re too young. I’ve seen it when you’re over 40 and people think you’re too old. And there’s this perfect sweet spot in your 30s that everyone thinks you’re the perfect cybersecurity candidate. And honestly, that’s what we’re going to debunk today, is that there really isn’t this age thing. But there are some hurdles and you have to understand that and be aware of how you can bypass them and overcome this, because some employers are afraid of hiring young people. Some people are afraid of hiring old people, and at some point you’re either too young or too old on somebody scaling and you need to know how to deal with that.

Kip Boyle:

Right. And I think one of the reasons why people are concerned about hiring an older person is salary, for example. They’re concerned that they’re going to ask for too much money, whatever the employer thinks too much might be. There could be some unspoken concerns about sickness or just apathy. When I was on the Air Force we had this little saying, “Retired on duty.” So it’s-

Jason Dion:

Yes, the road program, retired on active duty. They’re just waiting out for the next year until they’re done. And you’re get no work out of that person but you’re like, well, can’t get rid of them. They’re just stuck here until they retire.

Kip Boyle:

Yep, things like that. And so those are probably some of the things. Maybe they don’t feel like the person’s going to be particularly productive, whatever the reason, I can tell you that ageism is illegal. It is not permitted in the United States to discriminate based on age when it comes to somebody who’s over 40 years old. Now, interestingly enough, when you opened up the episode, Jason, you talked about how for some positions there is such a thing as a perception of being too young, but that is not a protected class. So you could actually say to somebody, “Come back and see me when you’re 30 and I’ll be more interested in considering you to be a candidate for this job.” And that’s actually not illegal, but not that I hear anybody do it but I just think it’s interesting. Yeah, so ageism, this is a great topic.

I’m glad we’re talking about this. Now., Jason and I kind of compared notes real quick and so we’ve got four ideas for anybody in this guy’s position. And I’ll go first. My initial reaction is, okay, let’s set the fact that you are in your 60s aside for just a second. Consider yourself just a career changer, which is something I would say to anybody who had worked for maybe five years in one particular career and then said, “Oh, I want to move over to cybersecurity.” And we’ve seen lots and lots of people like that over the last three years. We’ve seen people try to cross over from marketing. I don’t know, what else Jason pops for you?

Jason Dion:

I’ve had bookkeepers, I’ve had people who are nurses that got out of healthcare because they’re like, I don’t want to be here anymore with this whole COVID and working 18-hour days and all that. And I’ve seen a lot of that as well. I’ve seen people who are cops that switched over. I was going to say security guards that have switched over. So there’s a lot of people coming in from a lot of different areas. And each of these has something that relates to cybersecurity. If you’re a cop, you have a really good background in physical security. If you’re a nurse, you may get a job doing healthcare IT or a healthcare security because you have the understanding of HIPAA and all the requirements around there. If you come from a marketing background, you could do cybersecurity awareness training because that is a good way to market your knowledge. And so there’s lots different ways you can use your existing skills and break into cybersecurity, build up that experience, and then get a more quote, “cybersecurity technical job” if that’s what you’re aiming for.

Kip Boyle:

Yes, and so you’re career changer whatever your age. And so what we’ve always told people who are career changers is you need to identify your transferable skills. And Jason, I think you just did a great job of saying, “If you’re coming from this industry, here’s you’re your top transferable skill.” But typically people have more than one or two. If you’re in the medical industry you understand the health insurance portability and accountability act, HIPAA. So that’s huge but that’s just one thing. The fact that you understand medical jargon, that you understand kind of how medical centers operate these are all fantastic transferable skills. I remember when I hired somebody into my team when I was CISO at an insurance company, I hired somebody who understood the business of insurance. I put them on my team and I made them kind of what we would call now a business information security officer, because nobody else on my team understood how insurance worked.

But I thought it was a critical success factor to have that capability within our team, so that we wouldn’t make stupid recommendations to people who are trying to sell insurance and we would just come off as being totally clueless. And so we did not want that. So isolate your transferable skills, that’s my first tip. Let’s go to you, Jason. What’s your next tip?

Jason Dion:

Yeah, before we move to the next tip, I just want to say when it comes to those transferable skills, a lot of times your old business actually is a benefit for the new thing you’re working towards. So Kip and I actually just hired somebody about two weeks ago for our company to take over as the chief operating officer. And that person actually comes from a law background and she happens to have a law degree and has been a practicing lawyer for 20 years. And I know originally, Kip, you were really worried when I brought this person to you and said, “Wait, why are we hiring a lawyer to do operations, that doesn’t make sense?” I was like, “Well, if you think about where we are in the scope of this business, 90% of the work we’re doing right now is legal stuff. It’s contracting, it’s agreements, it’s privacy policies, it’s making sure.” And by the way, this person, she wasn’t just a lawyer, but she also was a COO for a couple of large law firms.

So she has a really strong background in operations too. But now we’re getting the best of both worlds because we’re getting somebody who can do operations and somebody who can cover all of our legal problems in one. And so that would be a way to sell yourself of, look, you’re not just getting an operations person or you’re not just getting a cybersecurity guy, you’re getting somebody who knows insurance or medical or whatever because you’re bringing that transferrable skill. So I just want to highlight that because I think she did an excellent job in her interviews to really convince you and be like, Look, I’m giving you all the things you need, but this is why I’m better than all the other candidates. I’ve got this extra thing for you.

Kip Boyle:

Well, and I think that was the hook for me, was that here’s somebody who was a practicing attorney but also was very, very good at the back office things that quite frankly most attorneys are not very good at. And I think that was the hook for me. So yeah, there you go. That was her transferrable skill.

Jason Dion:

Yep. And then number two, my second area that I want to bring up, so you brought up the idea of highlight your transferable skills if you’re a career changer, because you are. For me, I think the other thing is you want to choose your position based on the job title and be very careful when you’re looking at different titles. And now what I mean by this is, when you go on Monster Dice, LinkedIn, whatever, you may see a job posting that is a level one engineer or a level one SOC analyst or an intern or something like that. If you see terms like that, they’re not really looking for somebody to walk in who is 40, 50, 60 years old. When they write level one or entry level, they’re really thinking sub 25 probably. You may be 30 and be able to be passable. But the reason is they know that A, the skill level they’re targeting, and B, the money they’re willing to pay for that position is not going to be attractive to somebody who is 40, 50, 60 years old.

It just probably isn’t. An entry level SOC analyst might make 50,000, 60,000 a year. If you’ve got a wife and two kids at home and you’re 50 years old, the kids are about to go to college, you can’t really afford to work for $50,000 a year and take care of your wife and kids and everything else because you’ve got too much other things. And so you probably need to be targeting a higher level position. Now, this is where it gets a little tricky because going back to number one, transferable skills are going to be critical here. If I have the choice, I’m 43 as the time of this recording, Kip, you’re 50?

Kip Boyle:

Older than 43,

Jason Dion:

Older than 43, late 40s or early 50s, you’re somewhere around five to 10 years older than me. But we’re both in that category where we’re now in this protected class of over 40, right?

Kip Boyle:

Yeah, that’s right.

Jason Dion:

But if I was applying for a job, I wouldn’t apply for an internship. I wouldn’t apply for an entry level job, not just because of my skills but because I wouldn’t be able to accept that job. If I was working as an insurance agent making $80,000 a year working for State Farm right now, I can’t afford to take a $30,000 a year pay cut to get experience. And so where this comes into play is you can look for jobs that focus on your transferable skills, like if you came from an accounting background or a bookkeeping background then apply for a level two or a level three position as an auditor because you could say, “Look, I understand HIPAA compliance like hands down, now I understand the IT side as well. Putting those together, I’m going to be the person that’s going to help you.” And A, it’ll get you a higher pay B, it will eliminate some of that ageism that happens just because of the level and seniority of that position.

Kip Boyle:

Yeah. So I love that guidance that you’ve given as far as what to avoid. But I think our standard advice to folks still applies here, which is don’t just assume that, well, there’s two jobs. I can be a pen tester or I can be a risk analyst or something like that. A lot of people just don’t realize there’s so many different job titles. So get out there and choose the job title. And the reason why we tell everybody that is because once you choose the job by title, then you can pull a bunch of different, maybe four or five, six different job postings with that title. And by comparing them, you’re going to get a really strong sense of what most employers are going to expect you to have in terms of skills, qualifications, certifications, training, what have you. Also make sure that you isolate the industry and isolate to the size of the organization that you want, because a cybersecurity analyst at a giant American bank is going to be recruited differently than a cybersecurity analyst at let’s say, a small sized FinTech that’s trying to sell to giant insurance companies.

They’re just going to be looking for different types of folks, so make sure you isolate job title, industry and size of company. And that’s just stock advice.

Jason Dion:

Yep, and then I think this brings us to our third area that we wanted to cover. And when we start talking about our third area, we’re really talking about the fact that yes, ageism is real. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you ageism doesn’t happen. Now, Kip said earlier on it’s illegal here in the US and yes, it is. But good luck trying to prove it. You have no way to prove that as a hiring manager didn’t hire you because you walked in the door and you were 64 years old or 65 years old, or 58 years old or whatever.

Kip Boyle:

Unless you said it out loud, the part you’re not supposed to say.

Jason Dion:

Yep. And that’s another point is you don’t want to mention your age if you don’t have to because that could be an issue. And we’ll actually talk about some tips to get you through some of the hiring filters early in the process, like when they’re doing resume reviews to make sure you’re not flagging as this old guy that you are. But once you get in the room for an interview whether it’s over zoom or you’re in the room, you’re not going to be able to hide the fact that you’re in your 60s. I’m going to see it. Or maybe you look really young for your age and you still look like you’re in your 50s, but as a hiring manager, that may still worry me depending on my background. And we have to realize that the hiring managers they’re people. And most people carry baggage with them from when they’ve been burned before. Now, I will tell you I’ve spent most of my career in and around the government space, and I had a very old workforce in general.

Most of my people that worked for me that were civilians were in their 50s and 60s because they already did 20 years or 30 years in the military. They retired and then they got a job as a government civilian and came back doing the same job as a civilian. So for us, it wasn’t an issue. We would hire people that were old all the time because we realized they’ve got great experience, they’ve got lots of experience and knowledge, and they know what they’re doing and all that kind of great stuff. That being said, I know some hiring managers who have literally told me to my face, “I will never hire somebody who is over 55.” And I’m like, “Why? They have great skills. They have great experience.” He goes, “Yeah, but the problem is if I’m going to hire somebody who’s 64, 65, for instance…” What is the thought process to the hiring manager?

They’re going to retire in the next five years. That’s what they’re thinking. So now I’m going to hire this guy on. I get, Kip, and he’s the perfect guy. And I put him through training. And I spent a year getting him to be really proficient because most of us when we get on the job, it takes us three, four, five months to really come up to speed and really become hit or bruise. By a year you’re full throttle, you’re doing great. And generally after three, four or five years, you either are going to slow down because getting burnt out in the same job, or if you’re already 65 you’re going to be 70 at that point. At some point you’re going to want to retire and go hit the golf course or go part-time or something like that.

And so a lot of hiring managers, even they don’t know your situation. You may not have anything safe for retirement. I’m going to work till I’m 90, until I physically can’t work anymore, they don’t realize that. And so this person that we’re talking about, I’ve had some one-on-one conversations, and that was one of the things like, “I’m only 64, I’m planning on working for another 10, 15 years at least. I’m young, I’m happy. I enjoy doing this, but hiring managers aren’t giving me a chance because they see an old guy walk in the room.” And so I think you have to flip that narrative a little bit and just realize that you are working uphill. And even though you can’t prove that it’s ageism unless they say, “Kip, I don’t want to hire you because you’re 50 something.” That is ageism, and you could sue them over that. But again, you’ll reverse theirs and good luck proving it.

Kip Boyle:

Yeah, unless they make a mistake and say something out loud or put something in writing that they shouldn’t, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to actually catch and call somebody for ageism, but that’s okay. That’s a separate thing because really the important part is you’d like to work and somebody’s not going to let you work. You suspect it’s because they think you’re too old, but you can’t prove it. The bottom line is that unless you want a lawyer up and fight, you need to keep looking.

Jason Dion:

And even if you did lawyer up and fight, what are you going to get? Maybe a lawsuit settlement where they give you some money, but they’re not going to hire you. You wouldn’t want to work for them after you sued them, that’d be a horrible work environment.

Kip Boyle:

No, that would be awful. Yeah, so ageism is out there. So what are some things that people can do in order to minimize a reaction from a hiring manager where they think to themselves, this person is too old? Well, so it all starts really when you write your resume. And this by the way is advice we give to everybody what I’m about to share. Don’t put more than 10 years of work experience on your resume. There’s just nobody who cares. Even if you’re 30 or 40 years old nobody cares. Anything over 10 years is just considered to be irrelevant. So that’s the first thing. I’m sure you’ve done wonderfully interesting things in your career and you’d love to talk about them or show them off or whatever, but this is not the time to do that. So no more than 10 years, no more than two pages.

Again, same advice we tell everybody, leave graduation dates off your resume. I would still go with the reverse chronological resume rather than other types of ways that you can organize your resume, because people know that when you use alternate forms of resumes it’s usually because you’re trying to obscure something. So stick with that reverse chronological one. And as you said, Jason, when I finally see you whether it’s over zoom or in person, I’m going to know that you’re “older”, so-called in quotes. So you want to make sure that while I see that, I don’t latch onto it. So just like we tell you, write your resumes to hook the hiring manager’s attention, I want you to talk and interact with the hiring manager in a way that’s going to hook their attention towards what you have to offer rather than, wow, my gosh, this person’s so old. If you don’t talk compellingly, they’re going to fuzz out and they’re going to focus on the thing you don’t want them to focus on, would be my guess. Okay. Jason, what do you think?

Jason Dion:

Yeah, so I think you made a couple of really good points, and one that I do want to go back on when you’re talking about qualifications and degrees. So for example, I was interviewing somebody for a government job, so we are okay with older folks. And they had their degree on there, master’s of IT, 1982. Don’t tell me it’s 1982 because now I’m doing the math in my head going, if you got your master’s, you were probably 22 years old, ’82 it’s now 2022, 40 years later, that tells me you’re 60, 65 years old. Instantly I can do that math in my head. And so it’s a flag. So instead I would say Master’s of Information technology, done. That’s all you need to do. Have a degree or you don’t have the degree, and maybe the school. The other thing, depending on when you graduated, your degree may have been called something that we don’t call it anymore.

And this can be a tricky thing because you don’t want to necessarily change the name of your degree but things have changed. For example, one of my master’s degrees is a master’s of Science in Information Technology with a specialization in information assurance.

Kip Boyle:

Yeah, we don’t use that anymore.

Jason Dion:

Today in 2023, no one talks about information assurance. But when I graduated in 2010, anywhere from 2005 to 2015 that was the term of the day, everything was information assurance or IA. Nowadays, everything is called cybersecurity. So if you go do the exact same coursework I did, you would get a degree as a master’s of cybersecurity. Now, what should I do to avoid that ageism that could happen if I was in the job market? I would change it to masters of IT and drop the specialization. I wouldn’t even talk about it. And then when I do the little blurb underneath it, the 2 cents I say, “My coursework focused on cybersecurity including identity and information access management.” And blah, blah, blah, all the things I did, but I would now use the term cybersecurity instead of information assurance to be able to make it more current.

Same thing if you have certifications that nobody cares about anymore. For instance, are you somebody who has an MCSA? Well, that was popular in the late ’90s, early 2000s. It doesn’t even exist anymore. Since 2020, MCSA doesn’t exist. It’s all Azure or something now. So don’t put your MCSA on there because that’s just aging you and showing that you’ve been working for at least 15, 20 years. Now, all this stuff we’re talking about is going to change depending on the employer we’re talking about. We’ll talk about that in a second as well. But I just want you to keep these things in mind. So think about the terms you’re using, think about the way you’re writing it, think about dates on there. And then the other thing you mentioned reverse chronological order which is awesome. The other place I see people give away how old they are is that intro paragraph.

I’m looking for a job paragraph at the top about me and what I’m seeking. What I mean by giving that away is, for example, if you look at my bio it talks about the fact that I have 25 plus years of experience. That means I’ve been working for at least 25 years. Now, in my case I actually started working at 12, but that still means I’ve been doing this stuff professionally for 25 years, means I’m probably 40 something. And that gives it away. So instead I would say an experienced cybersecurity professional, blah, blah, blah, blah, because I don’t want that 25 in there. Now in the interview, once they see me, they see the bald head, they see that I’m 40 something. Now I can bring that up and yeah, I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I’ve been doing this since 1992 and yada, yada, yada. But I don’t need to put that on my resume because if I do, it’s going to age me.

And so again, it depends on what is the message you’re trying to convey. When I’m teaching my students, I want them to know I’ve got 20, 30, 40 years of experience because that gives me credibility. As an employer trying to hire me it might scare them off either that I want too much money, I’m too expensive, I’m too old, I’m going to retire, and all those other things that go into it. So it’s just crafting the message and putting your best foot forward

Kip Boyle:

Yeah, when you’re in the interview if you happen to be one of these older candidates, because you can’t really hide how old you are, you could color your hair. There’s some things you can do to sort of get some youthful look about yourself. But when you’re talking specifically, I want you to talk about how excited you are about the new things that are happening. I want you to talk about how you’ve been playing around with new technology and have you say things like, “Hey, have you heard so-and-so’s about to release thus and such?” What you want to show is that you are very much thinking about how things are changing and that you’re embracing that change and that you’re comfortable with that change. So just think about what are the stereotypes of older workers? We said many of them in the episode already, that they’re tired, they go out sick a lot, whenever, they’re stuck in their ways.

And just think about what’s the counter narrative and what are the opportunities for you to say things that are counter to that narrative during the interview process. And I think that would be very helpful. So any other specific tips about ageism, Jason?

Jason Dion:

Yeah, I would say one other one that we all as hiring managers have an inherent bias where we look at people who look, sound and act like us. So if you’re walking into the room and the hiring manager is a 25-year-old young woman with purple hair, and you walk in at 65 balding or silver hair and you look like her grandpa, she’s going to treat you like her grandpa. She may not want to but just inherently that happens. And so in her mind she’s comparing you to the old people in her life that she knows, and that might be her grandparents who don’t even know how to use an iPhone and send a text message. And that’s what they’re impressing on you. And so you’re at a disadvantage if you’re going in and the hiring manager happens to be in their 20s and you’re in your 60s.

Kip Boyle:

Sometimes you just show up and it’s just like, oh boy.

Jason Dion:

Yeah, and you just know it’s just not going to happen. And I’ve been there. I’ve walked into a room where the person is tattooed and piercing and spiked hair and I’m like, they’re not going to like the standard white guy. And I’ve been in other places where I walk in, there’s an older hiring manager, and they think that I’m too liberal and too out there. And so it can happen both ways, but just realize that there is some of that that happens and it’s an inherent bias that they’re not even aware that they’re doing it but it does happen all the time. And it takes a really good hiring manager to realize that and act against their own inherent biases to be able to hire outside of that. The other thing I would say is that as somebody who has hired young and old people, my team is a relatively young team in general.

Most of us are under 40, well, most of them are under 40. I’m not. I’m over 40. The oldest person on my team she’s in her 50s. And when I was hiring her, I’ll tell you as a hiring manager I was a little worried. And it wasn’t because of her age, but I was like, am I going to be able to manage this person who is 15 years older than me? Am I going to be able to manage this person who has more education than me because she has a PhD, I only have a master’s degree. And those are kind of things like, oh, I don’t know if this is going to work on a daily basis even though she was really a good fit for the position. And I had to make the grownup decision of, okay, Jason, be a grownup here. You’ll figure it out. She’s the best candidate. Let’s hire the best candidate. And don’t put it to the side just she has more years of experience than you or more knowledge than you in some area.

And I think that is something that people are afraid of. I never want to be the smartest guy in the room, but I know a lot of people who want to be the smartest guy in the room. And they’re afraid of hiring people who are smarter than them, and honestly, that hurts their business but they don’t realize that.

Kip Boyle:

Or at the very least they just don’t want their authority challenged every day. And some of that authority challenge can be overt where the employee, no matter what their age, is constantly challenging them out loud. Or it could be more subversive like the eye rolls, folded arms when you’re trying to talk to them, stuff like that. So being the supervisor is tough enough and you don’t want to deliberately stack the deck against yourself, I think is a very common thing. The fourth item that we wanted to share with you is choose your employers wisely. Think about where you’re going to apply to. Some employers are going to I think as Jason kind of already hinted to, are going to be naturally more interested in somebody who’s older because they’re capable of appreciating what you bring to the table. And sometimes it’s like, well, these people represent the best value.

Take for example, somebody who leaves active duty in the military, they are in their early 40s and then they go take a job elsewhere in the federal government or in a large defense contractor that’s doing a lot of business with the federal government. Well, they get the culture right away. There’s no learning curve for them on the culture and the bureaucracy, no learning curve on the bureaucracy. Somebody off the street would probably struggle with all that for a long, long time. So really think about who you’re going to apply to. And I’m sorry but if you think like, hey, I want to work for, I don’t know Facebook. I don’t know anything about Facebook, but I could tell you that from a distance I just have this perception that the older you are, the less likely you’re going to get a job at Facebook. I could be totally wrong, but they just sort of give off this vibe that they want to hire a lot of young people. So just be careful about who you approach. Do some homework.

Find out from friends, how many people over 30 do you see at X, Y, Z employer? Just do that research. And I think that’s going to be for your betterment. Comments on that, Jason?

Jason Dion:

Yeah, I think you’re 100% accurate there. There’s actually a pretty funny movie. I think it was called The Intern about 10 years ago. It was about the guys from Wedding Crashers, Owen Wilson, and I can’t remember the actor-

Kip Boyle:

Oh yeah, they went to Google.

Jason Dion:

They went to Google, and these guys are in their 40s and they’re in the Google internship program as they’re trying to break into tech. And everybody else is 19, 20, 21 years old running circles around them. And at the end of the movie they finally figure out, oh, these guys are valuable because they’re older they bring something to the table that nobody else brings. So I think that it’s a comedy but it really does show the truth behind some of this stuff. And not a knock on Google. Google has lots of older employees, but in general they are a younger organization and Facebook. And the other thing is, if you’re going to go for a tech startup, most of the time you’re going to find people under 30. And the other thing with that is it may not be a good cultural fit for you anyway even if they did want to hire you because at 65, do you want to put in 20 hour days, seven days a week because in the startup culture that happens a lot of times.

And you’re like, dude, I’m at the end of my career. I don’t want to do that. I want a 40-hour job. So understanding what you want is going to be important too. And then the other side of that is there are companies that will appreciate and accept older folks. Government is a really big one. Right now there is a massive hiring demand at state and local governments and people are overlooking those jobs. The reason for that is during COVID, a lot of older workers retired and were sent home because of the threat of the virus and people weren’t sure. And they didn’t want the liability of somebody who’s older getting it and dying and then suing the company. So a lot of people went home and they never came back. And it wasn’t because the company didn’t bring them back, or the government didn’t bring them back.

It’s they got home and after a year of sitting at home they’re like, you know what? I’m just going to retire and stay retired. So there’s a large outflow of people and they’re trying to fill a lot of those jobs again. So you are seeing that. And a lot of younger folks don’t think about the government as a place to work. It’s just not something in their DNA. They want to work for Facebook and Google and tech startups and things like that, and they think of government as being slow, old, that kind of stuff. And for a lot of times it is in the tech space. So even if you’re older and you’re not as focused on the new DevOps and agile methodologies and serverless and micro containers and all of that, that’s okay because most of the government ain’t using that anyway. They’re still using data centers with old R710 Dell machines that we’ve been using 10 years ago.

So being older isn’t as much of a hindrance if you’re going to work in state, local, city or federal government or their contractors. So that’s one place I would look if I was an older folk looking for a job.

Kip Boyle:

Well, I think we’ve covered this topic pretty well at this point. I don’t have anything else to add. I hope this was helpful for those of you who are older looking for an opportunity to get into cybersecurity. So to recap, Jason, and I think that it’s entirely possible that you can get into cybersecurity. But just to go over it again, recognize you’re a career changer. That means you need to take an inventory of your transferable skills. We want you to be careful which job you choose, make sure you get a job by title. Choose your industry, choose the size of organization that you’re going for. Pull half a dozen job postings and really understand what’s going on. We’ve acknowledged that there is ageism, and we’ve given you some tips for understanding why it happens and what you should do to minimize the chance that you are going to get victimized by a hiring manager’s inherent desire to not hire you without saying that out loud.

And then finally, we talked with you about how to know which types of employers are more likely to be friendly to an older worker who wants to come in and work in their open cybersecurity job. So really hope that helps you. Jason, you want to wrap the episode?

Jason Dion:

Yeah, the last thing I was going to bring up from that summary is as an older worker, sometimes the position you’re seeking makes more sense based on your age and your experience. And what I mean by that is if I was going to hire somebody to do business development for me, for my cybersecurity consulting firm, I may not want to hire you at 65 to be my pen tester. But I definitely would love to hire you to be the guy who goes out and talks to all these other executives because most executives still these days are 40 to 70 year old white men. And so if I have somebody who is a 65-year-old white man, he’s going to be able to connect a lot easier during a sales call than a 22-year-old, I don’t know, something else, woman, man, whatever. But it’s just those kinds of things.

There’s that natural people like to be around people that look, sound and act like them. And you have that going for you if you are one of these older people and your business sells to older people like CFOs, CIOs, et cetera. So keep that in mind. That being said, thanks for joining us for another episode of Your Cyber Path. Hopefully you found this helpful as we talked about ageism. Even if you’re younger, this should still be helpful to you because you are going to be the hiring manager in the next five or 10 years. And we want you to keep this in mind because the older workers are not a class of people we should just throw away. They have a lot of skills, they’ve got a lot of capability, and there’s a lot of benefits of bringing them on your team. And they will bring diverse thought that you don’t think about as a young person.

In a lot of the organizations I worked at, we had that 65 year old working alongside 20 year olds and 30 year olds. And the 20 and 30 year olds are like, oh yeah, the last 10 years everything’s been great in tech. It’s always going to be perfect, blah, blah, blah. We’ll just roll full steam ahead. And the older guy will be like, “Hold on guys. There was this thing called the dot-com bubble at the end of early 2000s. That’s something you should be aware of that might happen again.” Oh, look at this crypto thing. It was a bubble just like dot-com. And these things happen time and time again, and older workers can bring that experience to help you avoid some of these big problems.

Kip Boyle:

Perspective,

Jason Dion:

Perspective and life experience, it’s useful. But yeah, so all that being said, thanks again for listening to us. If you want to keep in touch with us, you could do that over @yourcyberpath.com. Right on the homepage, you can sign up for our mentor notes. Our mentor notes come out once every other week. They’re written by Kip. They’re about 500 words usually. They’re very short and to the point, and it’s going to keep you up to date on the latest things inside the cybersecurity world, whether it’s certifications, whether it’s a news article that came out, whether it’s some concept you should be aware of, whether it’s some kind of guidance on how to write your resumes. And as things change, we constantly want to keep you updated with that information.

So it’s a great way to stay in touch with the community and stay in touch with us. So I do recommend you go over there @yourcyberpath.com, click on that mentor notes, sign up at the bottom, enter your first name and your email, you’ll be signed up. You’ll start getting those right away. And we’ll let you know every time there’s a new episode of Your Cyber Path so you can listen to it. And until next time, this is an episode of Your Cyber Path. We’ll see you then.

Kip Boyle:

Bye.

 

Headshot of Kip BoyleYOUR HOST:

    Kip Boyle
      Cyber Risk Opportunities

Kip Boyle serves as virtual chief information security officer for many customers, including a professional sports team and fast-growing FinTech and AdTech companies. Over the years, Kip has built teams by interviewing hundreds of cybersecurity professionals. And now, he’s sharing his insider’s perspective with you!

Headshot of Jason DionYOUR CO-HOST:

    Jason Dion
      Dion Training Solutions

Jason Dion is the lead instructor at Dion Training Solutions. Jason has been the Director of a Network and Security Operations Center and an Information Systems Officer for large organizations around the globe. He is an experienced hiring manager in the government and defense sectors.

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