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The Mad Dash to Find a Cybersecurity Force

Category: Business,Finance

Shamla Naidoo, global chief information security officer for IBM, has had success reaching out to mothers returning to work, as well as to veterans, to find potential cybersecurity workers.

“We’ve been talking about this for the last few years,” Ms. Naidoo said. “The first year, I spent a lot of time worrying about it. After that I thought, there’s no point in worrying about it, I’m going to have to go act, and I’m going to have to act in a nontraditional way. Posting a job description and hoping people are going to show up and apply to the job wasn’t working because the people just didn’t exist. So rather than trying to hire the skills and knowing they’re not as easily available, let’s create the skills internally.”

She created a system open to hiring people who have little or no experience, and, in many cases, even skills, in cybersecurity, with the understanding that they will come in, join a more experienced team and learn on the job. They are formed into teams of five to seven people solving one problem at a time, with the new employees teaming with more experienced security experts to watch.

Many skills from other industries are transferable to the cybersecurity field. Cybersecurity experts need to be able to communicate policies to, as Ms. Naidoo put it, “increase the cybersecurity I.Q.” of an entire organization. For example, people from a finance background might be able to educate their co-workers in accounting about cyberrisk.

She’s grown her team by about 25 percent over the last year with developers, consultants and research professionals. She said being more flexible in hiring, and hiring outside of the normal pipeline, had evened out some of the inequities in the field — like a relative dearth of minorities and women.

“To solve the skills shortage, we have to hire people who have the right aptitude, who have the right attitude, people who are curious, are willing to learn,” Ms. Naidoo said. “Outside of that, I have very few other criteria. I’m opening the aperture for where we look. I’m trying to hire in nontraditional places, nontraditional groups of people, and so I don’t expect them to have the skills or the experience that we need. I will hire people wherever I can find them.”

Michael Doran, 38, was a police officer in St. Louis for almost 10 years before going into cybersecurity.

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