How to break into Cyber Security with no Prior Experience (Part 1)

by | Jul 1, 2022

You’ve decided to, or you’re considering going into cyber security, but you have no prior experience.

That’s exactly where I was a little over a year ago. I decided to get out of active-duty Army after 14 years of service as an Army Musician (guitarist). There were many reasons I made this choice, and it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Whatever your reason is for getting into cyber security (and I encourage you to take that step), you are in for an exciting ride!

Your Why?

Why do you want to go into cyber? It may sound cliché, but you need to decide your why, write it down and think about it often. Your why will get you through the ups and downs of your career transition. For me, it was very practical. I was leaving the military and needed to secure a new career to support my family. I had always been into computers, and as a kid, I thought it would be mysterious and fun to be a hacker (ethically, of course). However, instead and at first, I pursued my passion for music through the military band. After deciding to make a big change, I heard of cyber security while going through the Army’s Transition Assistance Program. They pushed a career in cyber hard. I looked into the field and thought it sounded like an intriguing, challenging, and potentially lucrative career. I was up for the challenge.

My background

As I mentioned, I was a professional guitarist in the Army Band and successfully transitioned into a cyber security career. It was one of the scariest things I’ve done. There were a lot of unknowns when I started my journey. I had a great gig as a musician and planned to finish 20 years of active duty. However, I knew that it was my time to become a civilian again. I was looking for more freedom in my life regarding my time and finances. Have you ever asked yourself, “What lifestyle do I want, and how do I achieve it?” Perhaps cyber security is the vehicle that will help you accomplish your goals.

Once I knew I wanted to go cyber, I went all-in and began a program with ACI Learning called Computer User Support Specialist. They offered evening classes from 6-10 pm, Monday – Friday for 4 months. I did this training on top of my full-time job in the military. Luckily, I had already moved my family to Alabama after buying a house a year before leaving the Army. So, I had the time to study and not feel guilty about neglecting my family. This was tough but also a blessing to be able to complete the training. I received classes on ITIL, CompTIA A+ Network+, and Security+. 

After completing this program, I successfully enrolled in a 7-month Skillbridge program with CyberWarrior Academy. This was like going from drinking from a sink tap to a fire hose of cyber information. It was high pressure, but I loved it. The classes offered included offensive and defensive security, including vulnerability management and incident response, firewalls and IDPS, packet analysis, security monitoring, malware analysis, and security automation. I also was able to retake Network+ and Security+ to solidify the information further. They offered CEH and CND as well. I attained 800 hours of hands-on, intensive, and lab-driven technical training in cybersecurity methods and procedures. I received extensive training and hands-on practice in multiple OS and tools such as Kali Linux, Wireshark, Tcpdump, Burpsuite, Metasploit, and PowerShell. Another plus was the program was all online as well.

My graduation from CWA was set for mid-March. I separated from the Army on 30 January and was hired by a great company on 31 January, the very first day I was out of the Army! This was a whole two months before graduating from the CyberWarrior Academy program. Talk about a perfect transition! This did not happen by accident, though. The year prior to my employment, I was constantly tweaking my LinkedIn profile, my resume, studying for an obsessive amount of time, and networking like crazy. I’ll go more in-depth on how I approached these topics in the coming weeks.

There are a few things you need to accept right now as you begin your cyber journey. 

  1. It is going to be very challenging.
  2. You need to be mentally tough. The job search can be really draining.  
  3. It will be a lifetime of learning (the learning curve is STEEP if you have no prior experience). 
  4. Get into the right mindset. You will be successful if you don’t give up.
  5. Be open to change. You may be offered a different role than you originally desired.
  6. It is worth it!

There is a fantastic book called ‘The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.’ It has a great quote: “Be like a postage stamp – stick to one thing until you get there.”

Decide to get into cyber and stick with it until you get that dream job!

If you think this article series could help your friends, please share it! Also, stay tuned for next week, where I’ll give an overview of the weekly topics to be discussed.

About the author:

I decided to write an article series on how I got a job in cyber security with no prior experience. From deciding to switch careers and go cyber it took me 10 months. In these articles I’m going to share my personal experience and what I believe helped me succeed in getting into this amazing field. I had a lot of mentors to get here! This will be a weekly series, and I hope it helps you with your cyber security journey!