How to Go from Active Duty to Civilian Cybersecurity
Transitioning to the civilian workforce from active-duty military status is a significant shift regardless of whether you’ve served for a few years or retired after 20 years of service. No matter what job the military assigns to you, extensive training and steady employment are guaranteed during the terms of your contract. But what happens when your active-duty service time concludes? How can you bridge the gap to civilian work with ease?
To help answer these questions, we’ve hosted a livestream panel discussion in honor of Veterans Day with Brock Logan, Analyst, and Brad Alaska, Adversarial Operator, to showcase their success stories leveraging the Department of Defense (DoD) Skillbridge program in partnership with Bishop Fox. Bishop Fox is no stranger to the talent that Skillbridge brings. The Fox Den has gained many new members as a result of our partnership, including our featured guests.
“Bishop Fox has a willingness to give someone a chance. It is not so much about who you are on paper but understanding your capacity to learn and your motivation level. Degrees and certifications are useful, but secondary to you as a person. This was important to me because I came from a very different career field.” - Brock Logan, Analyst, Bishop Fox.
If you haven’t had a chance catch the livestream session, this blog will give you a play-by-play of how Skillbridge works, tips and tricks for pursuing a civilian cybersecurity career path, and Skillbridge success stories in cybersecurity straight from the Fox Den.
Entering the Civilian Cybersecurity Workforce
If you aren’t familiar with Skillbridge look no further to find out! Kaitlin O’Neil, Recruiting Manager at Bishop Fox, joined our panel to share the juicy details. In a nutshell, Skillbridge is a DoD program that helps service members transition into the civilian workforce. During the last 180 days of service, approved military members have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to integrate with leading industry partners to gain training and development in the civilian workforce bridging the gap to the next career path.
"Bishop Fox benefits from the thought diversity that military members bring to the firm and our clients." -Kaitlin O’Neil, Recruiting Manager, Bishop Fox
Skillbridge is only one option so we would like to highlight a few other avenues that can enable your pursuit of a civilian cybersecurity career. Consider using your access to the Post 9-11 GI Bill to gain formal cybersecurity education or certifications. No matter what level of benefits that you qualify for under the Post-9-/11 GI Bill, you should be able to get a much-needed head start towards a career in security. Check out this blog to get ideas on different education pathways to follow towards a civilian cybersecurity career. Another option – find a cybersecurity mentor to guide you on your new career adventure.
Hear From Skillbridge Participants
The best way to learn about Skillbridge is straight from those that have been a part of it.
Brock Logan joined Bishop Fox after 10 years of service in the U.S. Air Force as a commissioned officer and pilot.
Brock was interested in flying from an early age and followed that dream, but cybersecurity hit his radar back in 2010 when Stuxnet became public knowledge during his pilot training. He went on to fly for ten years, including a few deployments to Afghanistan, but continued to learn about cybersecurity as a hobby which led to completion of a M.S. degree in Computer Science. Brock discovered that his military background was a good foundation for understanding the underlying fundamentals of offensive cybersecurity.
Brad Alaska initially served as a C-17 mechanic for five years and then retrained as a Cyber Warfare Operator taking his first steps into offensive security under U.S. Cyber Command.
Brad found the offensive work as a Cyber Warfare Operator to be a perfect fit with his passion but was interested in pursuing additional avenues in the field. Skillbridge provided an ideal opportunity to utilize the depth of knowledge he gained in Cyber Command as a foundation for developing more breadth in his offensive security toolkit.
“I was excited to line up with Bishop Fox and expand my knowledge base. Bishop Fox already has a reputation in our career field for good tool development and hiring people directly after military service.” - Brad Alaska, Adversarial Operator, Bishop Fox
Choosing Offensive vs. Defensive Work
One of many exciting things about working in cybersecurity is the variety of offensive and defensive career paths to choose from. And there is no shortage of important, groundbreaking work on either side of the fence. Many security professionals, including our livestream guests, believe that offensive work is akin to solving puzzles, which is one of many things that that draws them to the profession. One unanimous topic during our panel discussion was the difference between working offensively versus defensively and the massive scale of work required to manage defensive security controls. Offensive security can be viewed by some, including our panel guests, as advantageous because only one vulnerability and one way into an environment needs to be discovered. Defenders, on the other hand, essentially have a big dam holding back a flood gate with copious amounts of little holes to constantly patch. And you can’t afford to miss one.
Skillbridge is a Win-Win
Skillbridge is a win-win scenario for both the service member and civilian company. Transitioning service members continue to receive military pay and full benefits, like healthcare, during the duration of Skillbridge. The sponsoring organization receives extra hands-on deck for essentially no cost for a maximum of six months. The best-case scenario is that the service member is a good fit, and the organization has the means to extend a permanent offer. If that doesn’t work out for any reason, the risk is low for both parties and the transitioning service member gets a head start at gaining skills that can only be acquired in the civilian workforce.
How to Get Started with Skillbridge
Plan ahead, do research, and be your own advocate! Those are tips directly from our Skillbridge participants that you can hear in the livestream. Service members are eligible for Skillbridge 180 days prior to the end of a military contract. Start doing your own research several months ahead of that critical date. Investigate the organizations that partner with Skillbridge and start greasing the wheels with your command because their sign-off is required. Since six months is the maximum Skillbridge commitment time, consider shorter options to be able to take advantage of the program if given the opportunity. If you have a particular company in mind and don’t see it on the website – don’t worry! Affiliate programs like Hiring Our Heroes serve as liaisons for companies that are not listed on the Skillbridge website and can help you set up transition opportunities.
Recommendations From a Recruiter
When you reach out to companies that you are interested in working with, be descriptive about yourself. Make it clear why you want to pursue a career in that field. Don’t be shy - explain why you are a good investment for the company. At Bishop Fox, recruiters want to know why you are passionate about offensive security, so go the extra mile and help them understand why you want to work in this industry. Need ideas? Consider joining capture the flag events or attending conferences to improve your hacking skills and then share this news with recruiters. Also, timing is everything, so don’t give up if the timing isn’t quite right with the company that you are most interested in. Keep in touch and build relationships because the timing might be perfect at a later date.
New Opportunities on the Horizon
If you’re ready for your next adventure, get started here with the Skillbridge Program and check out these helpful resources from the Bishop Fox:
- Veterans of the Fox Den
- Security Certifications: Choose Your Own Adventure
- Skillbridge Paves the Way for Service Members
If you’re interested in working in the Fox Den, visit our Careers page for the latest job opportunities.
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