Upskilling Your Cyber Skillsets for Career Advancements

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A career in cybersecurity has many benefits, including career growth opportunities and being in a field that helps protect people from bad actors which can be very satisfying. According to the recent (ISC)2 report, cybersecurity professionals have consistently expressed very high levels of job satisfaction over the last four years. A record 77% of survey respondents reported they are satisfied or extremely satisfied with their jobs.

Despite the many advantages of being in cybersecurity, the industry faces a significant skills gap. While the gap seems to be slightly shrinking the past two years according to the most recent (ISC)2 cybersecurity workforce report, there are still more than 2 million cyber professionals needed to fill the gap. This is a very large number in the grand scheme of things. To help address the talent shortage and fill critical roles that are left unfilled, security professionals have the opportunity to take training and achieve certifications to further expand their knowledge and skillsets as a way to advance in their careers.   

Expanding Cyber Skills Through Training and Certifications

Fortinet’s Training Institute offers award-winning training through its programs, including its Network Security Expert (NSE) Certification program. The Certification program is an eight-level training and certification program that is designed to provide interested technical professionals with relevant training on key areas – such as secure SD-WAN – and an independent validation of their network security skills and experience. The courses were developed to provide foundational and advanced cybersecurity knowledge and meant to provide individuals with role-based guidance and best practices on how to set up specific security solutions, as well as what the process is to defend against potential cyberattacks.

Individuals who achieve NSE level 8 certification gain the designation of Fortinet Network Security Expert and the prestige benefits offered by such an accomplishment. We recently had a virtual conversation with Luke Titmus who is an NSE 8 and Director of Engineering Services at Switchshop Limited in Hitchin, England. He shares his perspective about his experience achieving level 8 and what it has meant for his own career growth and trajectory.

How do you see the cybersecurity skills gap factor affecting your organization and your own daily work?

I do some of the recruiting for Switchshop, especially for the engineering team. With one area being the cybersecurity side of our business, we must work hard to find people to keep up with the demand of our customers. In the past, many organizations would have had generalist IT technicians, IT managers, or network security engineers configure their systems with more traditional firewalls, networking, and systems. With the sophistication and evolution of the landscape today, networks are becoming larger, and are in greater need of skills to manage and scale effectively. Threats are becoming much more advanced, meaning we need people with more technical skills. However, the world is struggling to keep up. Fortinet’s Training Institute is helping to bring more people into the field.

What is the role of certifications in your hiring process?

We like to look for people that already have cybersecurity certifications. It is a great way to really know the background and knowledge someone is bringing to their role and our customers appreciate it. Some of the technologies that we use are common across multiple vendors—it’s just a slightly different way of doing it in each case. For example, the training that many of the Switchshop staff obtained from Fortinet’s Training Institute courses has been invaluable. This real-world experience combined with our own company mentoring is a great combination. The training is a great way for someone to quickly progress into gaining more technical skills.

What was the NSE 8 certification process like?

Previous knowledge in networking is invaluable because it underpins network security. If you understand networking, then you can understand how traffic flows through the firewall. I spent many weeks going through the NSE level 6 training to understand every single topic because it covers peripheral technologies that make up the Security Fabric. Later, when I did the exam, I was still nervous, but I ended up with a good score because the entire NSE curriculum provides a solid, broad grounding for success, alongside my experience in the field. For those wondering, I am amazed at how much I’ve managed to learn and retain. I think anyone else could do it if they are curious enough and apply themselves.

How have your NSE certifications helped your career?

Every single level in the Fortinet NSE Certification program is essential, and it all culminates up to level 8, which is the highest level. It gave me a great leg up in my career and has allowed me to take on more advanced projects as I became qualified and experienced in those areas over time. It has been exciting to take on more new and challenging projects. The certification and training also allowed me to work with more prestigious customers and has earned me a leadership role within Switchshop. The advanced skill set of the whole Switchshop Engineering team has been instrumental in opening doors with customers in relation to complex cyber security projects.

For those considering NSE level 4 certification or beyond, what advice would you provide?

Definitely do it! Be inquisitive, because that's the best way to learn. Also, the more you practice and solve challenges in a safe environment, it will help you later in the real world. Having a real thirst for understanding and learning is probably the most important thing in my book. The Fortinet Training Institute is the educational path that guides your interest to help you get there.

Learn more about the Fortinet free cybersecurity training initiative and Fortinet’s Training Institute, including the NSE Certification programAcademic Partner program, and Education Outreach program which includes a focus on Veterans.


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