The Cybersecurity Workforce, Knowledge and Skill Gaps

Two weeks ago, I had the honor of moderating expert panelists at the PrivSec Global Conference on the topic of The Cybersecurity Workforce, Knowledge and Skill Gaps.

The panel included: the CEO of a fast-growing threat intelligence company; the President of an organization uniting  minority cybersecurity executives; the CEO of a global cyber-education company; and the  co-founder of a growth strategist training company. These impressive panelists had united to address a pressing issue -  the workforce gap for cybersecurity talent in a post-pandemic period. They unanimously agreed that the global COVID-19 pandemic has had dramatic implications for working practices and talent management, disrupting normal supply-and demand markets for labor and forcing a mass migration of the workplace to the digital arena.

During the panel we had some agreements and a few disagreements around this topic. Sit back and enjoy the recap if you were one of the lucky ones to attend this conference and a summary if you were not able to attend.

Sharon Wagner, CEO of Cybersixgill, discussed his company’s adoption and adaption of the ABC’s of sales strategy (“Always Be Closing”) as aN HR approach - “Always Be Hiring”. To facilitate this, his company compiled a pool of several qualified, pre-vetted candidates for every open role, any of whom could jump on board in a shortened hiring cycle. Sharon and his team believe that this “just-in-time hiring” method is an imaginative and unique strategy, one which facilitated his company’s substantial annual growth throughout the pandemic - a staggering threefold increase in personnel. 

Sharon also discussed additional strategies, such as shifting focus to hire junior candidates, as well as candidates from outside traditional technical backgrounds. If a candidate has good analytical abilities, even from backgrounds as diverse as liberal arts or law, and are eager to grow through various cybersecurity roles, they can easily be trained and gain experience rapidly. Click here to learn more about the positions open at Cybersixgill.

Roy Zur, CEO of Cybint Solutions, claimed that the shortage of talent was evident far before the pandemic. According to Zur, as most of the world workforce transitioned to a remote, work-from-home model during the coronavirus, the talent shortage became painfully obvious. The pandemic thereby amplified existing challenges, making it ever more difficult not only to find talent, but to onboard and train them remotely.

Larry Whiteside Jr., President of the International Consortium for Minorities in Cyber Professionals, offered an alternative perspective, emphasizing that although the past year was not ideal by any stretch, the pandemic was a welcome disruption - exposing and challenging our long-held and outdated beliefs surrounding work habits, project-specific team structures and geographical barriers. These transformations to the workspace, according to Whiteside, must be embraced as an opportunity. Specifically, the new remote nature of work has allowed companies to hire from a larger, international talent pool.

We also delved into the topic of  “salary bands” - a limitation created by the industry’s larger, established companies. It was suggested that start-ups and private companies who could move beyond these fabricated boundaries would create competitive advantage and move with greater alacrity than staid enterprises whose primary focus is quarterly financial performance rather than growth and innovation.

A creative company must encourage creativity in hiring, offering equal opportunity to prospective employees.  This means remaining open to nurturing and encouraging the transfer of skills from other industries and backgrounds,  while investing in training human resources as a manufacturer might invest in capital equipment to ensure employees are equipped with the relevant skills needed for the specific job. 

In this regard, Cybint’s Roy Zur emphasized the importance of hiring people who want to grow and who are willing to learn. He asserted that creating positions for these types of people will eliminate some of the shortages of talent and skills.

Everyone agreed that for this issue, the main solution is patience. New employees from other fields respond favorably to an organizational culture willing to support and facilitate their growth.

Shannon Carlton, co-founder of R2R Growth Strategies, stressed the importance of bringing the  human element to the forefront, looking at each individual to ascertain their personal vision and mission, as well as their potential impact within the company. Quality candidates require more than financial rewards. Rather, they seek to understand the future trajectory of the company, and how they themselves are tied to that future as part of their career path.