Fill Your Cybersecurity Skills Gap with Veterans

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One of the most pressing concerns facing organizations today is the widening cybersecurity skills gap. According to recent estimates, there will be as many as 3.5 million unfilled positions in the industry by 2021. One often overlooked pipeline that may help close the skills gap is servicemembers transitioning out of the military.

The US military today is comprised of about 1.2 million active duty servicemembers with another 800,000 people in the seven reserve components. And right now, about 550 servicemembers leave military service every day, with about 250,000 military members expected to leave each year for the next five years. These veterans are entering the civilian workforce with an average of about 15 years of training and experience behind them. As a result, many of them are transitioning with unique skillsets that make them ideal candidates for a career as a cybersecurity professional.

Today’s military is highly technical, and many of these men and women have been trained to use some of the most sophisticated technologies running on some of the most highly targeted networks in the world. As a result, much of their situational, hands-on experience translates to the cybersecurity battlefield. Situational awareness, maintaining security, intelligence gathering, and support for chain of command are all skills that translate well to a role in cybersecurity. And many of these individuals also possess security clearances, which are not only expensive for private organizations to obtain and maintain, but can also take up to 18 months to complete.

A Q&A with Dawood Manzur

Dawood Manzur is one of those individuals. He is an 8-year veteran of the US Marine Corp and a recent “graduate” of the Fortinet Veterans Program. The “FortiVets” program facilitates the transition of exceptional military veterans into the cybersecurity industry by providing professional networking, training, and mentoring. Dawood is one of dozens of trained “FortiVets” now actively working in the field of cybersecurity, with many more currently enrolled or successfully starting their careers.

Dawood is now working as a System Engineer at Fortinet, and Veteran’s Day is a great opportunity to get his take on programs like the one sponsored by Fortinet that are helping to fill that critical cybersecurity skills gap.

To start, perhaps you could give us a summary of your background in the military and how that prepared you for a career in cybersecurity

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I started my Marine Corps career as a communications Marine focused on routing, switching, and help desk IT. While in that role I was fortunate enough to get some exposure to security and transferred to the cybersecurity job field. In that position I experienced many aspects of security which culminated with my having the pleasure of teaching cybersecurity courses to Marines at the Cybersecurity Training Center.


What do you do now?

I am a Systems Engineer for Fortinet working as part of the SoCal commercial sales team.

How did you get into the FortiVet program?

Towards the end of my transition process out of the Marine Corps, a friend referred me to the FortiVet Program. They spoke highly of the program and I saw this as a great opportunity since I had experience with Fortinet products within the Marine Corps. The program is set up really well to help you transition from a military culture over to a civilian, commercial culture.    

Why do you think this program is important in helping to fill the talent gap in cyber security?

The number of resources the FortiVets program provides far outweighs any others I have seen. The program is structured to assist veterans with a variety of skill levels and cybersecurity knowledge. They then provide all of the resources and training necessary to help you become the best job candidate you can be. Once you have all the skills in place, they then connect you with organizations looking for talent. Given how hard it is for some companies to hire trained cybersecurity professionals with actual hands-on experience, programs like this help fill vital cybersecurity roles while providing veterans with the resources to grow their careers.

What is the benefit of hiring a military veteran?

The military produces well-rounded professionals that have received continuous training in their job field. If they worked in IT, they most likely hold industry certifications that pertained to their job. In addition, they have years of hands-on experience operating sophisticated networks and technologies, often under extreme conditions. To employers looking for talent, this background is extremely valuable because getting experienced and certified professionals can be very difficult given the cybersecurity jobs market.

What would you say are the benefits to a company that hires someone from the FortiVet program?

They are getting someone who is able to contribute from day one. The biggest benefit is that candidates that have come through the FortiVet program have been fully vetted through an extensive training and certification process run by one of the top cybersecurity companies in the world. Candidates are then thoroughly interviewed to ensure that their knowledge and experience is matched to positions where they can succeed.

Check out our entry level designation of the Fortinet Network Security Expert (NSE) program. It is intended to provide a basic understanding of the threat landscape facing networks today. Anyone interested to learn about the threat landscape and cybersecurity should take this course for more learning. Also learn more about the Fortinet Network Security Academy available to educators and students or the FortiVets program.

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