When you think of a career in cyber security, do you picture a coder or technical whiz? If so, you might be surprised to learn that the reality of the industry is quite different. The cyber security industry encompasses a diverse range of non-technical roles that have been equally vital to the industry’s explosive growth in recent years. 

The cyber security industry, now a $7-billion-dollar market, offers numerous career opportunities beyond those requiring heavy technical expertise. As the sector grows, there is an increasing demand for roles that require a non-technical skillset, such as security program managers, compliance analysts, policy and procedure writers and training and education specialists.

So, if you’ve ever thought that a career in cyber security is out of reach because you lack technical skills, think again. 

To explore these opportunities and understand how to confidently apply for positions that may seem a little left of field to your normal area of expertise, we spoke with Paula Sillars, Security Engineer at Cyber Audit Team (CAT) based at Cohort Innovation Space. 

“I’ve always been impressed by the incredible level of talent in the cyber security community, particularly those who come from diverse backgrounds or have non-traditional career paths. People typically think that you need to have a technical background, but that’s simply not true. There’s literally a job for everyone, and soft skills are just as important, if not more so, than the technical” Paula says. 

With over 25 years of experience in Information Technology across Australia and New Zealand, Paula has seen major changes in the industry, including an explosion in cyber certifications and courses, and significant advances in technology and tactics.  

“When I landed my first role in IT Managed Services, it was standard practice for the company I worked for, to ensure that all systems were secured properly, so it’s always been strongly embedded in my practices. You wouldn’t find a cyber security degree back then. Now that cyber-attacks have advanced and more people are online sharing their personal data, it makes sense that cyber security courses exist today”. 

Despite major advances, there is still a considerable gender gap, with women accounting for only 17% of the cyber security workforce. Paula is passionate about changing this and is actively involved, both professionally and personally, in empowering women and individuals from underrepresented groups to develop their skills and enter the dynamic field of cyber security. 

In Paula’s role at CAT, she has been heavily involved in the set-up, launch and running of the Cyber Skills Enrichment Program (CSEP), a joint initiative with Griffith University. This newly launched program is designed to provide those aspiring to a cyber security career with the skills and knowledge they need to get into the industry. The program has received incredible support from the industry, addressing a gap between formal qualifications and the practical skills needed for a career in cyber security. It was also recently nominated for ‘Best Industry Initiative supporting DEI’, in the 2024 Australian Women in Security Awards. 

“The program has already exceeded our expectations with 10 candidates already offered quality full-time roles with national banks, top consulting firms, government agencies and managed security service providers. Of these first 10 candidates to graduate the program, 5 were women and 3 identified as being neurodivergent individuals.” 

Paula, is also the Gold Coast Chapter lead and a mentor for the Australian Women in Security Network, which further highlights her efforts in addressing the gender imbalance in the cyber workforce. 

Paula also advises, “For anyone looking to enter this industry, my one piece of advice is to network. I don’t think people realise that most jobs go unadvertised, so if you’re a graduate about to enter the job market, you need to get out there and talk to people. And if you’re a woman looking to get into the cyber security industry, you need to find your support network. Find a group of people that understand your journey and are willing to provide advice, support and mentoring.” 

There are many opportunities for people to network in cyber security in Australia with free meetup groups and inexpensive industry conferences on offer such as Gold Coast SecTalks, Australian Women in Security Network (AWSN) events, and BSides Brisbane. These networking opportunities are especially beneficial for those at the start of their career journey. 

Cohort Innovation Space is a regular sponsor of Gold Coast SecTalks and the Australian Women in Security Network meetups. 

Remember, the cyber security sector is vast and diverse, and there’s a place for everyone. Whether you’re a technical whiz or a soft skills superstar, there’s a role for you. So why not take the first step towards your new career in cyber security today? 

The next AWSN event is on 19 June. Learn more and register here: Event Calendar (awsn.org.au) 

 

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Cyber Audit Team: https://www.linkedin.com/company/cyberauditteam/ 

Cyber Security Training: https://cyberskills.com.au/ 

Connect with Paula Sillars: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paula-sillars/