Whenever someone asks me what direction they should focus their IT career, particularly in regard to cybersecurity, my answer is always the same: “It depends.” It’s usually not a very satisfying answer, but it’s an honest one.
Early in my own career I learned the pitfalls of not specializing in something. While there’s always a place on a support team for someone who seems to know a little bit about everything, this makes for a very poor career move. On the surface it seems like a great idea, but in reality…
It’s simply not possible to be an expert in everything. Everyone hits their limits with time, memory, and determination eventually, so we must choose wisely what we want to specialize in. Having no specialty is a recipe for a mediocre career, especially in cybersecurity.
So, if you’re just kicking off your security career, or re-tooling and looking for inspiration, the best place to start is finding a specialty. A few questions you may want to ask yourself:
Further, you should also consider what you’re good at, or what comes naturally to you. Some folks prefer command line programming and solitary work, while others may capitalize on interpersonal skills and interactions with others. Think about your personality – are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Are you more methodical or would you consider yourself spontaneous and creative? What about your interests – what do you do that excites you, or what is an interesting topic of learning? All of these factors can help determine where you should focus your security career path. The possibilities are vast, and include:
All of these positions (and many more) are needed across all industries. Whether you want to be part of a team or an independent contractor, working on civilian or military projects, the possibilities are almost endless.
So, I encourage you to take an honest survey of your career. Is it heading in the direction you want? Do you currently have a point of focus? Be special! Find that passion and zero in with laser-like focus. When you find the right path, a lifelong commitment to constant learning and training becomes so much less of a burden. No one knows you better than you, so be honest with yourself and start doing what you love.