Technology expert and former military intelligence officer shares insight on the valuable skills that veterans can bring to the cybersecurity industry
By Bryon Kroger, Founder of Rise8
Following the onset of the global pandemic, the number of data records compromised by cyberattacks more than doubled from the year prior, from some 15,432 in 2019 to over 37,000 in 2020. Last year, in 2021, malicious cyberattacks remained a present threat as hackers attacked the Colonial Pipeline with ransomware, and CISA director Jen Easterly noted a massive flaw in Apache’s Log4j logging library that potentially left hundreds of millions of user devices vulnerable.
Unfortunately, as the real and present threat of additional attacks and vulnerabilities continues to increase, and the technology used in successful attacks and data breaches becomes more sophisticated, the cybersecurity industry remains heavily understaffed. According to the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, the global shortage of qualified cybersecurity personnel is approaching nearly 3 million.
With such a massive shortage of workers, cybersecurity leaders and professionals should look to hire one sector of the US workforce where applicants are not only in high demand, but also where many are already certified or qualified in cybersecurity—veterans. In this article, I will list my top 10 reasons and explain why firms should hire veterans to address critical gaps in their workforce and cybersecurity defenses.
- Veterans are accustomed to the responsibilities of leadership
Whether it’s the lessons learned from the first week of boot camp, the first night of a field operation, or the morning before giving a briefing, military service trains veterans from day 1 to understand the importance of leadership. In the realm of cybersecurity, it is often the quality of leaders that determines a firm’s ability to react and respond to potential threats (or present ones) in a timely manner. In the military, strong leadership could spell the difference between life or death. For cybersecurity firms, hiring veterans with leadership experience could spell the difference between overcoming and blocking a distinct threat, or allowing it to breach their (or their clients’) private data.
- Most Vets are comfortable in fast-paced environments
If there is one word that sums up the active-duty lifestyle, it’s “intensity.” During their time in the military, veterans learn how to adapt to and become comfortable with ever-changing fast-paced environments, often with the high-stakes factor of civilians involved as some form of collateral. In cyber defense, the high-stakes game transitions to one of veterans protecting themselves, their team, as well as civilians from malicious digital attacks. As such, veterans are already able to place themselves in a mindset that makes them a prime candidate for the cyber defense industry. Additionally, veterans may be better adept at navigating their peers through potential cyber crises and emerging victorious once a threat is addressed and nullified.
- Veterans value and respect constructive feedback
In many field operations during their time in active duty service, one luxury many veterans are not able to find is the ability to try again if their operation results in failure. However, trial and error is at the foundation of cyber defense; being able to learn what a threat is as well as how to best assess it and work around it is at the core of cybersecurity. Knowing this, many veterans in the cyber defense industry will find their mentors and/or leaders offering constructive feedback and criticism of their performance, spurring them to do better next time against the next inevitable threat, regardless of when or where it occurs.
- Teamwork and individual responsibility is at the heart of military training
The ability to get the job done no matter work, whether individually or as part of a team, is a mindset almost every veteran is trained to possess. As a result, veterans inherently hold stronger feelings of personal accountability and accomplishment regarding the success of their mission. Being able to operate as an individual professional that is part of a team equipped to handle outside threats — in which each individual is accountable for specific metrics of success — is at the heart of both military and cyber defense training. In the event that a cyber defense firm faces a crisis, veterans are one demographic of employees best apt to help that firm navigate the intricacies of such an occurrence.
- Veterans find purpose in delivering meaningful results
Along with teamwork and leadership, the mindset of completing a mission no matter what also helps drives veterans towards delivering impactful results that their service provides others. In the realm of cybersecurity and cyber defense, those results could mean the difference between a firm’s longevity and continued success or its failure if it faces a substantial digital threat. Veterans in the industry are able to clearly understand how their performance directly impacts not only their team, leaders, and others around them, but also outside individuals with a stake in the success of their mission. Having this results-oriented mindset is what helps make veterans such valuable workers to the cyber defense firms that employ them.
- Vets are mission driven
Whenever an active-duty veteran is instructed on what their mission means for the bigger picture, it helps instill a sense of purpose. For veterans in cyber defense and cybersecurity, that purpose is derived from the additional layers of digital protection their work and expertise provide others. When a veteran in cyber defense understands their purpose is to uphold the integrity of private data and information, they dedicate themselves to upholding that purpose, providing the firms who employ them and their clients with additional means of protecting their data, which provides over-arching value to the cyber defense industry as a whole
- Dependability is vital both in military and cybersecurity service
Veterans are taught to understand that any individual or service — no matter how vital — is only as valuable as it is dependable; including themselves. For instance, if a core technology a veteran relies on to conduct their daily tasks becomes unreliable, or a newer/better technology emerges, veterans are taught to seek out the reliability and value it could bring to their service. LIkewise, dependability is crucial to the ongoing success of firms within the cyber defense industry, as their services rely upon an ability to protect and bolster the defenses of vulnerable users and data.
- Vets understand the emphasis of structure and clarity
Without a clearly defined structure, no organization will be able to achieve success or maintain that success in the long run. Structure, however, is one of the core building blocks that military service helps instill in veterans, and many veterans seek out that structure in the private sector after their military service formally concludes. Therefore, many veterans will find themselves thriving in a role at a cyber defense firm that offers them a similar sense of structure, as well as clarity regarding their purpose within the organization. Through finding these, veterans are inherently able to rely upon their military training to continue providing value to the firms they work for.
- Vets are focused on the impact of driving meaningful change
If you ask a room full of veterans why they initially decided to join the military, most of the responses you receive are bound to fall along the lines of their desire to be a part of meaningful, positive change in the world. That meaningful change is precisely what the cybersecurity industry seeks to provide its clients in the face of an ever-growing and ever-changing digital landscape. In transitioning to cyber defense roles, veterans are able to carry that focus on driving impactful change into meaningful work in the private sector, leaning on their military training and background to provide a positive service that protects everyday people.
- Veterans are taught how to combat threats and take risks
At its heart, military service teaches veterans how to react to threats of virtually any degree and respond to them accordingly. In the realm of cyber defense, those threats are as numerous as they are varied in their potential intensity. Additionally, veterans understand that responding to threats in a timely and responsible manner can entail the need to take risks—another commonality shared in cybersecurity. Veterans who seek to transition their skills into the private cyber defense sector are valuable to the firms which might employ them since they already possess this mindset; they know the importance of their skills and the purpose they serve in protecting others. Because veterans are inherently trained on how to combat and overcome threats, even in high-risk situations, this makes them a valuable pool of candidates for the greater cybersecurity industry.
About the Author
Bryon Kroger is the founder of Rise8, which places the bureaucracy of the US military and the technological innovations of Silicon Valley in the same realm. As a veteran of the US Air Force, and co-founder of the DoD’s first software factory Kessel Run, Kroger is bridging the gap between the archaic practices of govtech and the speed that Silicon Valley startups are known for. Bryon can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org and at our company website https://rise8.us/.