EPISODE 18
Cybersecurity Job Market During COVID-19 Quarantine
EPISODE 18
Cybersecurity Job Market During COVID-19 Quarantine

CYBERSECURITY JOB MARKET DURING COVID-19 QUARANTINE

About this episode

In this episode, we are focused on the ever-divisive question of the importance of certifications in the cybersecurity industry. The answer to this question has changed over time from certifications being unimportant, to them being extremely important, to well, it depends.

 

Certifications can be extremely important for several reasons, including their ability to help your resume get through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) filters used by the human resources and recruiting team, but they are not a silver bullet that will instantly land you a job.

 

As Jason Dion (Lead Instructor of Dion Training) shares with us in this episode, certifications can be your ticket to getting an interview, but they alone won’t get you the position. That said, without having that certification on your resume, you can easily be filtered out of consideration before a hiring manager even gets a chance to look over your resume. This makes having the right certifications and experience imperative if you want to land your dream cybersecurity position.

 

Just as a certification isn’t a substitute for a college degree, you will also learn that a college degree is not a substitution for having the right certifications. This is often not an “either-or” thing, but a “yes-and” type of thing that you must achieve for many cybersecurity positions.

 

What you’ll learn

  • Why certifications are important in the cybersecurity industry?
  • Are certifications or experience more important to a hiring manager?
  • Are certifications or college degrees more important to a hiring manager?
  • Which certifications should you be getting to advance in your career?
 

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1:

Hi everyone. This is Your Cyber Path. This is the podcast that helps you get your dream cybersecurity job. I’m Kip Boyle. I’m an experienced hiring manager of cybersecurity professionals. If you want to give me feedback on the show and I would love to have your feedback, or if you want me to answer your question on a future episode, please visit the show page. You can find it at anchor.fm/yourcyberpath. When you get there. You’ll see the message button, just click that and start talking. Okay. So today another great situation. Wes has rejoined us. And what we’re going to talk about is what it’s like to try to get a cybersecurity job during the COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantine. I’m sure you’re listening to this and it’s got to be a question on your mind. And so Wes has agreed to help explore that and share that with you. And as a reminder, Wes is also an experienced hiring manager of cybersecurity professionals. Today, he leads a big cybersecurity team at a Fortune 100 company. So Wes, it is so great to have you back on the show.

Wes: 

Thanks, Kip. It’s great to be here. We’ve had a pretty busy week this week. Work has been very exciting. We have extended our final offer to the last candidate to fill the roles for this season so I’m very excited about that. I know this weekend is going to be a very busy weekend for us. My wife has taken a break and so I’m in charge of the kids for the next 48 hours. We’ve got five kids from 17 down to one and they keep us full of life.

Speaker 1: 

Well, you and I have something in common, my wife and I have six kids from, let’s see, 26 down to five. So yeah, so I’ve got a nice spread in the age range as well. So you’ve got the toddlers and the teenagers at the same time.

Wes: 

I start my day out changing diapers and I end my day grounding teenagers. It works out great.

Speaker 1:

Dude. I so recognize that. Oh my gosh. Okay. Well, let’s get into the topic today. So Wes, from your point of view, how does the current hiring context, right in the middle of the pandemic, right in the middle of the quarantine, how does it compare to just 90 days ago? It’s hard to believe but 90 days ago in February, everything was different, right?

Wes: 

Everything was different. COVID-19 has changed the stage for just about everything. Hey, Disneyland is closed, isn’t it? So, everything’s closed.

Speaker 1: 

Has it ever been closed? I mean, that’s a sign of the times.

Wes: 

On top of that, we’ve got the 2020 politics of a presidential election and the state’s federal versus state powers, so much uncertainty. So I’m going to use the word uncertainty. It’s a word we hear in the stock market, past performance does not guarantee future results. And I think we can say that with all confidence in everything we talk about when we talk about the job market in 2020.

Speaker 1:

So it seems like the larger economy, both the US national economy and the global economy is entering into a contraction, which is something that we like to avoid. The national financial policy makers are trying to avoid something like this, but when it happens, it’s really painful but it’s relevant to our topic because when that is going on nationally and globally, there is an impact to corporate hiring and corporate spending,

Wes: 

When companies are spending money, they need people to do the work. When they are contracting or are spending less money, they need fewer people to accomplish the objectives. And so with that, capital expense projects or CapEx are projects that are new investments. We’re creating something new or functional for our organization. CapEx projects are going to be focused on taking on new markets where they can. Those are probably going to be pulling back just a little bit cause those are considered, in some cases, optional expenses that we can choose to spend or not.

Then there’s keep the lights on kind of expenses. Those are operational expenses and companies are going to work really hard to reduce those operational expenses and keep them as low as possible. Limiting the operational expense, ongoing projects. Maybe let that server last one more year if we can. The idea being that if there’s uncertainty in the market, a company is going to behave just like my family would. And we’re going to save money both on big, new investments, like a new car, capital expense, or operational expenses, whether or not I get the oil change every 3000 or every 5000 miles.

Speaker 1: 

Right, and that’s all going to have an impact on hiring. To your point, if you’re expanding, you need more people, if you’re contracting, you don’t need as much help. Now the people who are listening to this podcast are wanting to get either a cybersecurity job for the first time, because they’ve never had one before, or maybe they have a cybersecurity job and they want their dream job. Or maybe they’re doing cybersecurity on a part-time basis and they want to go full time with cybersecurity. Let’s continue to unpack this work from home and just the stress of this changed operating model. That’s also kind of affecting the hiring patterns, right?

Wes:

It affects both hiring and retention of great employees. People prefer the environment that they’ve selected and are working in because that’s where they’re going to be most effective. They’ve already found their space in a lot of cases and so when we’ve changed the culture and the environment tremendously like this, where an extroverted person is found sitting next to the people that they’re comfortable with, you take that extroverted person and put them at home in a closet, trying to a soundproof closet. So they can work from home. That’s a very uncomfortable experience for them and so it creates additional stress, both for the people looking for work and also for the people who are at work, trying to figure out how am I going to navigate the traditional work stress with this additional COVID stress with the additional stress of my kids at home right now.

And so I see Seattle tech companies, a couple of them have given staff days off just to manage the work from home stress. I would also call it boundaries. Sometimes, when we have a boundary of drive to work, start work, do work, drive home from work, leave it there. And that doesn’t happen when you’re working from home like this, the boundaries are very, very important an we need to learn to create them and then support them with our choices as we work. So we kind of take that to the next step. And we say, well, how do we do that as a candidate, as a person looking for work. And what does that look like?

Speaker 1:

Right. And even if you had open positions that you were actively hiring for, you’re not just a hiring manager scanning resumes all day, you’re actually a team leader. You’re thinking about how is this affecting my team? I want to put some energy and effort on that because I don’t want people quitting on me or I don’t want their morale to go into the toilet. So even if you had open positions, you would be very distracted from the hiring process because you’re trying to take care of your team at the same time. I think that’s important to point out because if you’re a job seeker, you don’t see that. You don’t see how hiring managers are distracted necessarily. You just want a job and in your mind, you’re just thinking, “What in the world’s going on with these hiring managers? Why isn’t my resume getting me the interview that I want?” But let’s talk a little bit more about you as a hiring manager and how this impacts you.

Wes: 

I want to add to that, that that translates to time. What you just described translates to a longer duration for delivery. And so what used to be a two-day turnaround in order to look at your resume and get you a response to say, “Please meet with the recruiter.” Another two days to get to a hiring manager, two days to get to… Is now a week or two weeks for each of those steps. And that’s not intentional and it’s not because someone is looking past you. It’s just because the environment today is running differently than it did. And we’re still learning how to operate effectively and efficiently in that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Good point. So tell us more about how this is affecting you as a hiring manager.

Wes: 

The hiring market has certainly shifted. Three months ago, we very much had a candidate-driven market, candidates could choose which companies they wanted to make successful with their talents. And that is very much shifted in the last three months. Some very experienced staff are coming available that haven’t been available for a couple of years. Competition for some of these roles is really, really high and people are taking roles they sometimes have some previous experience in.

Speaker 1: 

Okay. Right. So if they can’t get a growth opportunity, then just to keep the paychecks coming and to stay relevant, they’re just taking a job that maybe they’ve already had before.

Wes: 

That is very common. More candidates are willing to move for offers, but there’s also a broader, more… I’m going to call it democratic market because you don’t have to live in that zip code to work for that company as much as you did, say, even three months ago.

Speaker 1: 

But if you don’t like working from home or you just don’t know how to do it, that probably doesn’t sound very good.

Wes: 

It’s not a great long-term plan if that’s not your favorite.

Speaker 1: 

Right. Oh, everything is so crazy right now. So it’s not just about the fact that we were having this massive game of musical chairs in the market right now where people are up out of chairs that they weren’t planning to be out of. And they’re trying to, in five different rear ends, are trying to sit themselves in the same seat. It’s so much more chaotic than that, even on the hiring managers side of things. So let’s talk about how this is all impacting job seekers. So what are you seeing Wes, as far as how should job seekers be thinking about all of this from their point of view?

Wes: 

There’s a lot of news articles that say security jobs are COVID-proof.

Speaker 1: 

I’ve seen that.

Wes: 

I smile when I see those. My observation is not consistent with that. I see spending is tight, CapEx and OpEx spending is something that they’re doing very carefully. That affects both the primary company and then the secondary companies that offer staff support, the professional services consultants. Those companies are providing services to the primary company and the primary is cutting back on their budgets. They’re doing it both for in-house staff and for the secondary or professional services staff.

Speaker 1:

So I’m thinking that’s conceptually very similar to if I’m not building as many aircraft. So if I’m Boeing and I’m not building as many airplanes, then I don’t need as many airplane seats. And so that ripples down the supply chain. Where Boeing does layoffs and then the buyers do layoffs and you have a supply chain too.

Wes:

We do. And so does every company out there. I do want to point out that the bad guys aren’t taking the day off, this is not a season where hackers are being laid off. Also, in fact, if anything, the gray hats have a little more time to work on that side of the house anyway. So we actually may want to think about COVID as a cover in place, creating the distraction to allow a Mal actor to take advantage of the situation. That actually is pretty consistent with what I’m seeing right now and either in the past, they were working the night shift and now they can go full time or maybe they’re just using this as a distraction. In the past holidays have been a primary attack day because of the distraction. If I can hit you on Thanksgiving or Christmas, I have an opportunity while you’re away from your desk, away from keyboard, I can take advantage of your company.

Speaker 1: 

Yeah. They love it when we’re distracted and isn’t this not the mother of all distractions right now. I mean, we’re changing seats, there’s all these people running around and I just love your observation. I think you’re dead on that the bad guys and the bad girls out there are working harder than ever, because they know that there’s this window of opportunity of vulnerability that’s open for them. And it makes their job much easier. And so, I would agree that security jobs are not COVID proof, but I will say that once we get ourselves sorted out and we’re not feeling as chaotic anymore, we’re still going to need people.

Wes: 

And when I’m looking for staff, I want to put great people in roles that they’ll be able to build and create and deliver for years and years and years to come. And some of those are going to be really senior people. The kind of people that we’re talking about that maybe came available on surprise. But understand that those people are going to be really effective when they’re paired with an enthusiastic learner, somebody who creates opportunities for themselves, with their energy, their enthusiasm, and willingness to do the hard work, somebody who is hungry to learn. And it’s a magical thing that happens when you pair this grumpy senior veteran person who’s fought all the wars and knows all the security, but is tired and you pair that person with the enthusiastic energy of a learner and they feed off one another and you get more than the value of two out of that, because it’s such a strong symbiosis.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. That’s a great dynamic. In my mind, I’m thinking about the puppy that starts to hang out with the old dog.

Wes: 

I’m not sure I’m prepared to do that because I don’t want to be little, either side in this case. That senior person has so much to offer and that growing person has so much to offer. I really see it as a symbiotic relationship where they both bloom because they’re together.

Speaker 1: 

So let’s think about what specific advice should we be giving to job seekers right now? Somebody who’s like, “Oh, okay, COVID fine. But I’m still going for it. I’m still going to go get my dream job.”

Wes: 

And you should, you absolutely should. This is your turn to put your hat in the ring and see where this goes. We make our plans. We set them before God, and then we go forth and we do our best. And that’s exactly what I would ask anybody to do in this season. Interviewing is hard. It always has been, it always will be. Hiring and getting offers, they’re hard and they always have been, and they always will be. Onboarding is hard. And it’s actually a little bit harder now that we’re doing it remote. But in each of those cases, get in there man, this is your rodeo, and this is your chance. And I would encourage you to pursue it with all you have.

Speaker 1: 

Even though things are taking a little bit longer, as you said before, what used to take two days now takes two weeks. None of this has ever really been easy. And it’s now a little bit harder, but that’s no reason to sit on the bench and wait for what you might think of as better time. So get in there now.

Wes:

And if I’m talking to a close friend that I’m making recommendations for how… A close friend you’re going to, to position yourself during this job search for this career. I want you to get three offers on the table at the same time. That is entirely what I want you to do. I want you to have three offers, and I want you to have a buffet in front of you, have choices. And if you eat this kind of meal, then you will have this wonderful flavor in your mouth. And if you eat this kind of dessert, then you will have a wonderful meal. And so each of these offers would be… Sometimes this happens, it collides where you get one, two, or even three offers in parallel. Now I’m not saying that happens for everybody, but the people who are working hard make a lot of their luck.

And so I would encourage you. Your goal is not to make one, and we’re not going to pursue these serially. We’re not going to go. “Let’s chase this one down for eight weeks. Oh, we didn’t get it. All right. Let’s go chase one more for eight weeks and we didn’t get it.”

If you make your goal to get three offers at once you leave the serial behind and you build a parallel job search where you create a level of activity that actually sometimes begets activity, we’ll say.

Speaker 1: 

Yeah.

Wes: 

I would suggest we almost do this in waves, so a person might be in a season of “I’m going to create a bunch of relationships and see what comes of it.” And then three weeks later, we kind of rode that wave to the beach. And we found that there was some good and some not good and we’re going to chase this last one that may, but we’re going to go with paddle back out and try and take another round of wave as we head back into the beach for another three-week cycle of let’s see what we can find.

Speaker 1: 

That’s so important, the idea of pursuing multiple offers at the same time or multiple opportunities at the same time. So important. I’ve had to coach people that myself. So is there a bright side to all this?

Wes:

I hope so. I really think there is. I don’t think the need for data security, information security, cyber security, or even privacy is going away anytime soon. This is our opportunity in security to learn to do things better. We get to understand what are our workflows today and how can we improve those? How can we automate those? How can we merge the different best of breed solutions we have out there into a single stack solution that integrates and talks to itself in one another. So that we get an analysis solution on our screen, a single pane of glass that has analysis on it, not just information on it.

That’s really what we have an opportunity. It’s our job as security professionals not to try and keep pace with our IT teams. It’s our job not to just try and run alongside and make sure we’re cleaning. Our IT teams need security to be out ahead of them and setting the pace and helping them run faster because we’re breaking wind for them with the new technologies and the new opportunities so that we are ahead of them with “This is how I recommend you use this solution” happens at the same time they’re discovering that solution for themselves.

Speaker 1: 

That’s great. There’s all kinds of upside here. Once you get your dream cybersecurity job, there’s going to be so much good work to do. Thanks, Wes. So listen, as we wrap up the episode, I just want to give you an update on the class. So back in April, we did a beta version of our masterclass. It’s called “How to get your dream cybersecurity job as told by hiring managers” and I’m happy to tell you that we have revised the masterclass. It has launched, we’re up and running as of June 1st. And so why don’t you go check it out? You can just load yourcyberpath.com into your web browser and there’s a free video of our most popular lesson available for you to watch. And so just go check it out.

Wes: 

Kip, I actually did and I really liked it.

Speaker 1:

Thanks, Wes. Great. Well, so listen, if you go check it out, those of you in the audience, if you go check it out and you want to give us some feedback, please do. I would love to hear what you think about it and hey, sign up for it too and really give me your feedback. I would love that. So let’s wrap up the episode. So we’re going to come back to you next week, Wes and I, and we’re going to continue to talk more about how to help you succeed in getting your dream cybersecurity job. You’re just one path away. See you next time.

 

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.