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The White House: A Focus on Cybersecurity

If you are an IT professional looking to take the next step in your career, President Obama’s recent Executive Order, Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, is something you’ll want to pay close attention to.  Why?  The order, which the president signed at the end of February at the White House’s first summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection, aims to encourage the government and the private industry to collaborate on cybersecurity issues in order to identify and prevent any future cyberattacks that threaten the nation’s safety, privacy, and economy.

This initiative, spurred by an uptick in recent cyberattacks on major U.S. companies, is expected to strengthen the already robust demand for cybersecurity professionals. “This hiring trend originated 5-7 years ago when businesses began to transition to cloud-based solutions and services, which increases an organization’s capabilities, but makes data more vulnerable,” explains Michael Manganelli, Senior Technical Recruiter at ES Technology, a division of The Execu|Search Group. “Data is considered a highly valuable asset for both the private and public sectors, and the consequences can be devastating if confidential information, ranging from internal corporate data to the financial information of customers or clients, is accessed by unauthorized parties. Just look at the recent Target and Sony hacks.”

With more organizations utilizing cloud-based solutions than ever, security has become a critical initiative for businesses across industries, creating opportunities for IT professionals with different backgrounds to transition into the field.  “The supply of cybersecurity professionals simply cannot meet demand, so employers are very open to hiring IT professionals with a core foundation of transferable skills from both the software and networking sides,” says Michael. “For example, security software companies are looking towards software engineers to help them develop and deploy security solutions, while many businesses are adding network engineers to their internal teams to ensure their networks are secure.”

While you don’t necessarily need to have a security background for these positions, there are a couple of steps you can take to enhance your marketability if you are interested in making the transition.   For instance, prior to job searching, Michael first suggests seeing if there are any internal opportunities at your current company to learn more about cybersecurity.  “It’s always important to learn a bit more about the field before jumping straight into it,” advises Michael. “Moving internally will allow you to evaluate what you enjoy about security, which will give you something to discuss with prospective employers when you do decide to make a change.” Once you are officially ready to start interviewing, Michael also recommends emphasizing your soft skills such as your ability to adapt to change, problem-solving skills, and personal accountability. “Today, most employers are willing to train candidates with less experience if they feel they are a good cultural fit for not only the organization, but the team they will be joining,” notes Michael. “If you are interested in transitioning to cybersecurity and can prove that you possess some of the personality traits needed to successfully learn a new skillset, you’ll find yourself in a good position to take advantage of this hiring trend.”

The Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity executive order is just one of President Obama’s recent IT initiatives. His TECHHIRE initiative, which was announced on March 9th, is aimed at building a larger technology workforce by providing Americans, who may not have had access to it otherwise, with hands-on training for high-level IT roles.

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