The Value of Cybersecurity Certifications and Training for Career Growth

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The rapidly evolving threat landscape calls for an industry-wide focus on upskilling security professionals and keeping their knowledge up to date and relevant. Providing employees resources that allow them to refine their cybersecurity skills and knowledge establishes a stronger security foundation for the organization and serves as a validation for that security professionals’ skills.

Andrew Vinton, Security and Network Architect at New Era Technology shared the value that skills building through certifications has had for his career and his experience with the Network Security Expert (NSE) Training Institute’s eight-level Certification Program.

What attracted you to a career in cybersecurity? 

My journey into cybersecurity was a gradual one, and it was not what I originally expected to specialize in when I joined the industry. After starting my IT career doing helpdesk support, I found networking to be both something I enjoyed and something I was good at, so I moved more towards that area. The company I worked for at the time was reasonably small, meaning all of us engineers didn’t have specializations, and we all aimed to become the jack of all trades.

As the company got larger, I started to specialize more and more in networking. This was around the time ransomware started to emerge as a dominant threat in the marketplace, so I took the opportunity to move towards cybersecurity as well. I found the combination of networking and cybersecurity filled not just a specific need in our organization, but a growing need in the marketplace at large.

What do you do in your current role and what role did you have when you first started your career? 

I started my career in IT by working level 1 helpdesk support for an MSP, doing everything from building computers to helping customers fix their home WiFi. From there I just worked up through the ranks, slowly specializing into areas that interested me, before ultimately settling on networking and cybersecurity. My current role is primarily network and security architecture – designing and overseeing the implementation of large-scale networks for enterprise and government clients. I also do a lot of general security consulting and penetration testing, to fill in the gaps between projects.

What allowed you to advance in your career to where you are now? What role did training and certification play in this advancement? 

Throughout my career, I have tried to put myself into situations that have forced me to grow both my skills and my capacity. This has meant quite a few long nights, quite a few mistakes, and the occasional faltering of the work-life balance. Completing certifications and training is simply an outworking of this philosophy, while also providing a framework, goal, and reward for learning.

I believe that as an engineer, client relationships are the most important assets we can possess, and the main value in certifications comes when building these relationships. When interacting with a customer for the first time, building trust in your judgement and confidence in your execution can often be more difficult than actually fixing their problems! Certifications give clients, even clients you have never interacted with before, a baseline of confidence in your abilities. For an expert level certification such as the NSE8, which is notoriously hard to achieve, this baseline is significantly higher.

What led you to get NSE certifications? And what led you to pursue the highest distinction of level 8? 

As part of our organization partnering with them, Fortinet focused very heavily on helping us get me and my colleagues up to speed with their products and encouraging our engineers to pursue the NSE certification track. After I achieved the NSE7, I took on the NSE8 as a personal challenge, hoping to be the first in Australia to get it.

Fortinet - especially our partner manager Tim Fitzgerald - supported this goal immensely by providing training and equipment for me to study with. I can honestly say that the partner enablement of Fortinet in Australia is second to none. I would not have been able to achieve the NSE8 without the support, training and opportunities they provided.

Does your Fortinet NSE certification come up in customer conversations? 

All the time; sometimes it is the only thing that allows the customer conversation to happen in the first place. We’ve even had people cold-call our office line and ask to speak to ‘the Fortinet guy.’ 

Are there any other benefits that come to mind when you think specifically of the NSE level 8 certification? 

While studying for the NSE8 helped me to increase my skill level in Fortinet products, I found that my skills and experience increased at a faster rate after I achieved the certification. Having the highest level of qualification means you get given the most complex of problems, and most of the time the buck stops with you. This can be daunting at first, and it took me a while after achieving the certification to be comfortable with this new reality, but now it has allowed me to reach a new level of confidence with the Fortinet product suite and within the industry in general.

What other certifications do you have, if any? 

Often I would challenge myself to get certifications for particular products our organization would be looking at or implementing at the time, and sometimes I would just get certifications because we needed them to maintain partner status. As a result, I have quite an odd collection of certifications, such as an MCSE in Windows Server 2012, Citrix CCP for XenDesktop, and the VMware VCP.

Do you encourage your team to pursue certifications? If so, why? 

Definitely. My journey to NSE8 and the opportunities it has opened up are living proof of why certification is so valuable in the IT industry. I am lucky enough to work for an organization that both encourages and rewards certification, so we have a good internal culture of continuous improvement and training.

What is your professional observation about the cyber skills gap? 

I believe the industry is approaching a crossroads. On one hand, the industry has been continuously caught off-guard by changes to the IT ecosystem like ransomware, SaaS and COVID-19, and the skills gap is only getting wider. On the other hand, governments and educational institutions have woken up to this, and we are seeing unprecedented levels of spending on incentives and pathways into the industry.

Whether or not this works will be the responsibility of the industry, and how well cybersecurity providers can take the theoretical experience provided by educational institutions and translate it into real-world practical experience. How well the industry can achieve this will determine whether the industry continues to remain on the back foot, or whether it becomes agile enough to deal with whatever the next disruptive event will be.

Fortinet’s NSE Training Institute is Addressing the Skills Gap

Just as organizations invest in enterprise growth, the same must be done for their employees. Certifications benefit both the employee and the organizations as upskilling proves to be a needed practice in combating the growing threat landscape. Fortinet’s NSE Training Institute is comprised of the Security Academy Program, Veterans Program and Certification Program, supporting security professionals, academic institutions, veterans and their families and underrepresented groups.

Find out more about Fortinet’s NSE Training Institute programs, including the Certification ProgramSecurity Academy Program and Veterans Program, which provide critical cybersecurity training and education to help solve the cyber skills gap and prepare the cybersecurity workforce of tomorrow.


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