Ask a Career Coach: Can I Work in Cyber Security With No Technical Background?

Ashley Mataya

Written By Ashley Mataya

Last updated on September 30, 2022

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Welcome to Ask a Career Coach, an advice-column where real bootcamp career coaches take a minute to answer questions from a Course Report reader! This time, our expert is Ashley Mataya, Senior Manager of Cyber Partnerships at Lighthouse Labs, who has worked for years in talent strategy for cyber security companies across Canada. Today, she answers a reader’s question about highlighting your transferable skills in cybersecurity. Plus, find out why people from different backgrounds are flocking to Lighthouse Labs to explore cybersecurity as a career change. 

Have a question for a Career Coach? Email us and you may see it answered!

Our question comes from a bar/restaurant manager who is considering a career in cyber security and writes:

“Dear Ashley – I would like to make a career change into cyber security, but I don’t have a technical background or previous technical experience. Is it possible for someone without a technical background to launch a career in cyber security? Right now, I manage a bar but have taken an IT support intro class and found it pretty interesting.

As the Senior Manager of Cyber Partnerships, I hear this question all the time, and Lighthouse Labs is committed to supporting students from all different backgrounds. Lighthouse Labs has a dedicated Career Services team that enters the picture in the last couple of weeks to support our cybersecurity students.

So let me give you my quick answer to this question: You don't need a cyber or an IT background to get into cyber security — you just need the desire! 

But here’s the long answer – there are ways to highlight your past experience (as well as what you’ve just learned in the bootcamp) to get our partner companies interested in you. Follow these three tips to put your most transferable skills first:

Tip #1: Soft skills are very important to cyber security employers

Companies tell us that of course cyber training is necessary, but don't forget the importance of soft skills as well! Companies are also hiring for cultural fit. They’re looking for people that understand what cyber security is and how to solve the problem, but also someone who understands how to relay that message to clients or coworkers. Sometimes in cyber security we need people who can talk the talk but also explain a cyber security concept in layman’s terms. If you’ve worked in customer service over the phone, then you’ll be great at handling a ticketing system for cyber security companies as a service. Companies that want to host training sessions for their employees about work email security would be really interested in your background as a customer service representative.

Here are the top 3 transferable skills cyber security employers look for:

  • Problem Solver! The number one thing we look for in the cyber security field is natural problem-solving.
  • Quick Learner! Companies are looking for somebody who is adaptable and is a lifelong learner.
  • Team Player!

Tip #2: Your past career can translate to cybersecurity

Coming into cyber security from another background also offers you a sensitivity to what other teams need in an organization. People come to Lighthouse Labs from all different backgrounds. We’ve seen an influx of students with experience in: 

  • Hospitality
  • Retail
  • IT help desk
  • Customer service 

Someone who’s had years of sales experience and pivoted to a cyber security career will be invaluable to someone looking for that combination of skills. Someone else who’s had years of experience doing research and managing teams as a product manager can’t be passed up by a cyber security company. If you're a natural problem solver, and you like to solve problems from any background, you would be great at cyber security!

Tip #3: There’s a place for you somewhere in cyber security! 

What's amazing about cyber security is that there are so many different roles! There are cyber security roles for people who want to identify threats from a secure operations center, people who prefer to work remotely from home and independently. There are cyber security roles for people who want to work with others, possibly in a consulting capacity. And there are cyber roles for people who want to educate others about how to stay safe online. 

Having a background in IT doesn’t necessarily guarantee you will be successful in cybersecurity! This is a field for anyone who is a natural problem-solver, a creative thinker, and who values life long learning. IT experience does not necessarily translate to success in cybersecurity. 

Depending on their background, Lighthouse Labs grads land roles, like: 

  • Cybersecurity Analysts 
  • Tier One SOC Analyst
  • Implementation Specialists 
  • Product Managers

Lighthouse Labs cyber security grads wind up all over the map! People have started at PwC, Bulletproof Solutions, Beauceron, CDW, and so many other companies. 

It’s all about your aptitude for learning. 

If you’re thinking of making a career pivot into cyber security, some questions to consider:

  • Do you have a desire to learn?
  • Are you interested in helping others?
  • What area of cyber security are you interested in?
  • How much time are you devoting to this career change? 

Learning Cyber Security at Lighthouse Labs

First it’s important to realize the power of networking and getting to know people. Lighthouse Labs stands out because of how we emphasize community within our cohorts. Go to the events, explore the ecosystem in your area, get involved in the community, and join the cyber socials. 

When you’re in a bootcamp, don’t just learn the material — get to know who’s in the program with you! Are they someone you might want to connect with after the program? Get on LinkedIn and connect with your cohort, get to know the companies around you, start posting your interests and highlighting your accomplishments!

There are also so many speaking engagement opportunities like cyber security conferences, mentoring opportunities, and cyber socials. Getting involved and getting your name out there is key. The more often you get your name out there and immerse yourself in the ecosystem, the better off you’ll be. If it’s not for this job, it might be for your next one or the one after that. 

Lighthouse Labs is creating the unicorns in this industry — the whole point of this program is to train people of any background to thrive in cyber security. 

To recap, think about what kind of transferable skills you have from your first career and how those could benefit you in your new cyber security career. Start your research into cyber careers and enroll at a cyber security bootcamp like Lighthouse Labs to determine what area you want to work in in cyber security. And start connecting with others to build your professional cyber security network and find support as you pivot your career.

Find out more and read Lighthouse Labs reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Lighthouse Labs.

About The Author

Ashley Mataya

Ashley Mataya

Ashley Mataya is the Senior Manager of Cyber Partnerships at Lighthouse Labs. Ashley has over 15 years of experience in HR, and Stakeholder Engagement, and has been a support to companies that hire in the cyber space across Canada to help them attract, retain and develop a diverse workforce. .

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