How To Get A Job In IT Security

Technical expertise is obviously vital if you want to work in the security field, but it’s not the only requirement. Looking to get ahead? Start by learning a second language (and we don’t mean C++).

Picture by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

At the opening of Symantec’s Sydney Security Operations Centre expansions last week, the topic of how to get a job in the centre (and by extension, in the security field) came up repeatedly. Fluency in multiple languages quickly emerged as a key skill, and was a contributing factor to Symantec setting up the centre — part of a network around the globe to enable ‘follow-the-sun’ support — in Sydney.

“In Australia we can tap into the very rich and very high calibre of local talent here, not only in the technical sense but also the multilingual capabilities,” said Bernard Kwok, Symantec senior vice president for Asia-Pacific and Japan. “We are able to find some very highly capable professionals who speak three or four languages.”

While much of the work of the SOC is automated (it monitors more than 744,000 devices for 1100 large enterprise customers), it still requires highly-trained staff. “In the end, there’s still a human element in doing security operations,” said Peter Sparkes, regional director of managed security services (MSS) at Symantec.

A university education is a pre-requisite, and the field remains competitive. “In Australia, we have a lot of very good high quality security professionals,” Sparkes noted.

Positions are rarely advertised, so socialising and attending security-related events is essential if you want to hear of new opportunities. “A large proportion of recruitment comes from networking,” said Sean Kopelke, director of specialist solutions for Symantec’s Pacific region.

The process is intensive: there is six months of in-house training for an analyst in the Symantec SOC before they begin working with customers. before going in-house. Fortunately, there’s also a healthy salary. Kopelke wouldn’t discuss specifics, but noted: “Security people are paid well because they have some very strong skill sets.”

Flexibility is a vital requirement, as security roles evolve rapidly. “Security is getting hard. I still get those odd Nigerian emails, but the reality is emails a getting a lot more targeted and a lot harder to detect. You need to constantly change operational parameters.”

Got your own tips for getting ahead in an IT security career? Share them in the comments.

Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers.

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