There is no doubt that the global rise of technology has created an incredible demand for IT professionals. “Over time, changing business needs can dictate what skills are most critical to the success of an organization,” says Erica St-Pierre, Managing Director of The Execu|Search Group’s Information Technology division. “While this often varies by industry, we’ve begun seeing an incredible need for cybersecurity professionals across the board.” In fact, cybersecurity is poised to become a $170 billion global market by 2020— 121% increase from 2015, according to MarketsandMarkets.
According to Erica, this uptick in demand can be attributed in part to continued high profile hacks. “When cyberattacks make national headlines, organizations will react by investing in their own security,” she says. “They’re concerned that their company may be at risk of a similar hacking attempt, and they are seeking the help of Cybersecurity Engineers, Network Vulnerability Engineers, and Ethical Hackers to ensure that their data is protected.” These cybersecurity concerns are so great that President Obama has even stepped in through several initiatives like Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity in an attempt to spur industry growth and keep the public and private sectors safe from malicious hackers. “If you have an interest in building your career around these skills, the outcome can be professionally and financially rewarding,” says Erica. “For job seekers looking to benefit from this high demand, it’s important to pay close attention to current events, as they can have an effect on the number of available positions.” For example, cybersecurity professionals can expect to see a rise in demand for their expertise when the following factors are in the news cycle:
- Politics: When politics rise to the forefront of the news cycle, tensions arise from every side of the argument. As soon as inflammatory statements or controversial decisions make headlines, irate hackers can act maliciously toward the opposing political group, or even the media. “From internal campaign communications to election committees to news groups, cyberattacks pose a major threat,” says Erica. “That’s why those with the skill set to handle such challenges during this election year may find themselves in a unique position to diversify their experience.”
- Company Hacks: The accelerated rise of technology over the last 20 years has created a gap between the capabilities of hackers and the ability for companies to keep up with them. In fact, cybersecurity firm, EY, recently found that 88% of global organizations don’t feel confident in their ability to defend their valuable information against an outside threat—something that has become an even greater concern as these threats have become more public. “When news breaks of major company hacks, such as Target, Sony or LinkedIn, a panic sets in among executives who are ill-prepared for a similar event,” notes Erica. “The negative media coverage and loss of profits create a tangible threat to businesses that once viewed cybersecurity as an abstract risk or inefficient use of resources.” Once they realize that they cannot combat such an attack, many executives make the decision to invest in IT resources.
- Mergers, Acquisitions & IPOs: The need to guard sensitive information on a daily basis becomes especially critical when a merger, acquisition, or IPO is on the table. Although executives often concern themselves with logistics and contracts in such an important business decision, they often forget that these same contracts, logistics, and financial information are being shared between several parties. All of this vulnerable information being accessible at a pivotal time for an organization can lead to a hazardous cyberattack. For example, Telstra’s acquisition of Pacnet is just one case where the company being acquired was a victim of a cyberattack mere weeks before the contracts were signed. Telstra only learned of the attack, which allowed infiltrators full access to Pacnet emails and systems, after the deal was closed. Situations such as this result in a financial loss of the parent company, including lost clients and a drop in stock prices. “Once again,” says Erica, “this bottom line result can get the attention of other executives planning to make any of these moves. In order to protect their business, they will be proactive throughout the process by hiring security professionals upfront.”
From these high profile examples, it is clear that this trend spans across industries, which gives IT professionals the opportunity for variety in their work—especially as a consultant. Erica also noted that there are opportunities outside of contract consulting. “Many larger companies are developing long-term security divisions, and there are new security firms looking for top IT professionals to join them,” she says. “Both of these are excellent opportunities.”
Regardless of these trends, Erica comes back to the larger perspective at hand. “No matter what’s in the news, there is a continuous increase in available positions.” Erica recommends that any IT professionals interested in pursuing this growing number of opportunities should address any skills gaps they may have. “And when these hacking stories do appear in the headlines,” Erica advises, “job seekers should take note and look for new cybersecurity opportunities that may emerge as a result.”