Veterans are Key to Filling the Cybersecurity Skills Gap

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The cybersecurity skills gap is a global problem that must be addressed if we hope to stay ahead of today’s motivated cybercriminals. With this being said, there are strong synergies between military service and cybersecurity leading to veterans being a key component to helping address this growing challenge by filling critical cyber roles. In fact, almost 200,000 U.S. service workers transition into civilian life each year with on average 15-year experience under their belt.

Veterans possess situational and other traits that translate well to a role in cybersecurity. Recognizing this, as part of the Fortinet Training Advancement Agenda (TAA) and NSE Training Institute’s Veterans Program, Fortinet facilitates the transition of exceptional military veterans and military spouses into the cybersecurity industry by providing professional networking, training, and mentoring to bring them up to speed as they transition to the civilian workplace. Today, hundreds of “FortiVets” have already been trained, with many more currently enrolled or successfully starting their careers in cybersecurity with Fortinet or other technology partners that are part of our hiring ecosystem.

Today we spotlight Mike Dombrowski, a 4-year Marine Corps veteran, Fortinet Veterans Program graduate, and now a Security Engineer with Jacobs to learn how the Veterans Program impacted his new career.

Can you give us a summary of your military background?

I enlisted in the Marine Corps as a Bulk Fuel Specialist. My work primarily consisted of deploying, operating, and maintaining expeditionary airfield refueling systems. These deployable systems met the evolving mission requirements of aircraft assets in the continental United States and overseas.

What led you to apply for the Fortinet Veterans Program?

The program presented a fantastic opportunity to network with like-minded, mission-oriented cybersecurity folks. In addition to offering free training, the program connected participants to mentors currently working in the cybersecurity arena, which is something that I knew would prove to be very valuable and necessary for my successful transition into cybersecurity.

Almost anyone that owns and operates their own business can tell you about the importance of mentorship and professional networking. This and the inclusion of Fortinet’s NSE Certification Program access makes for a winning combination that I knew would set me up for success.

How far did you get into the NSE training and did you find it useful?

I’ve completed NSE 1, 2, and 3. This training provided a great foundation and familiarity with the threat landscape and Fortinet cybersecurity solutions. I look forward to continuing to certify in Fortinet solutions moving forward to remain relevant in this rapidly evolving field.

What do you do now and what does a normal day in your job look like?

I am currently a security engineer supporting the NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Complex Integrated Tactical Warning Attack Assessment and Space Support Contract (NISSC II). Our work is oriented around helping the dedicated and talented Jacobs team that supports missile, air, and space missions of the US Department of Defense. The daily workflow includes deployment of cybersecurity tools into development and operational environments, utilizing DevSecOps and scaled agile practices.

What unique challenges do veterans face and how did this program assist?

Most veterans offer many traits and talents that can be lost in the civilian hiring process. Savvy hiring officials know what is being offered by an applicant with military experience. The Veterans Program connects participants with organizations that are seeking cultural qualities they struggle to find elsewhere. It is interesting how military service, and dedication to the greater mission, provides an unspoken bond even among those veterans that are generations apart. It provides for a foundation of common understanding and respect. As a result, veterans of different eras and backgrounds can be pressed into service, forming a cohesive functioning team with limited effort. Often few words are spoken, but much is understood.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Paraphrased, “Learn to fail well.” This is a loaded statement with multiple implications. If we are not failing at something, then we are not trying to grow in earnest. When we do fail, it should be viewed as applied learning. Try, fail, learn, and do better next time. As cybersecurity professionals that are continually learning, we have at a minimum, the benefit of building home labs to provide a controlled environment to fail and grow. No excuses.

Most people get stuck with trying because they are afraid to fail. In turn, they fail to succeed.

Why should companies hire participants of the Fortinet Veterans Program?

Program participants offer character traits to prospective employers that can be difficult to find in a stack of resumes during a normal hiring process. Participating military service members, veterans, and military spouses share a common heart, history, and interest in cybersecurity. There is an inherent shared culture among the veterans’ demographic that most organizations invest heavily to replicate, but often fail to achieve. This cohesiveness is not easily obtained, but valuable. Additionally, participants have had access to industry-leading training that better prepares us with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in a cybersecurity role.

Conclusion

The synergies between military service and cybersecurity must be leveraged to solve the global cybersecurity skills gap and bring qualified security professionals in to fill essential roles. Veterans have developed skills during their military service that translate well into cybersecurity roles and its demand. Fortinet’s Training Advancement Agenda (TAA) and NSE Training Institute’s Veterans Program aims to foster these skills and create an easy transition for veterans shifting into the cybersecurity industry by providing professional networking, training, and mentoring. Mike Dombrowski is only one example of the exceptional talent military veterans possess and how Fortinet’s NSE Training programs can aide veterans in successfully starting their cybersecurity careers.

Learn more about Fortinet’s free cybersecurity training, an initiative of Fortinet’s Training Advancement Agenda (TAA), or about the Fortinet Network Security Expert programSecurity Academy program, and Veterans program.

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