Why Transferable Skills Matter in Cyber Security

Jess Feldman

Written By Jess Feldman

Liz Eggleston

Edited By Liz Eggleston

Last updated on February 27, 2024

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When making a career change to cyber security, transferable skills can be invaluable! So which skills are employers looking for? Experts from Lighthouse Labs weigh in on which transferable skills are important in a cyber security career and tips on how to flex those skills in the job interview process. Plus, find out why 2024 is a great time to launch a cyber security career!

Meet our Experts:

  • Jeremy Shaki is the Co-Founder and CEO of Lighthouse Labs.
  • Jake Munro is the Lead Cyber Security Instructor at Lighthouse Labs.
  • Deborah Gillam is a Career Services Advisor at Lighthouse Labs.

Why Launch a Cyber Security Career in 2024

Why is 2024 a good time to launch a career in cyber security?

Jeremy: It's the same as 2023 and 2022: you can't start early enough! With everything that's going on with the threats around us, statistically, there are more cyber threats every year, and companies are ill-equipped. The reality is cyber security is such a broad space; there are a lot of roles and a lot of talent that is needed, but not nearly enough talent right now to fill those roles. The reason to start in 2024 is because starting now means you will be evolving with the field. The threats are evolving significantly, companies and their use of digital are evolving significantly, and thus the talent and what you need to do with your skill sets has to evolve. The earlier you get in, the more you can evolve with the space and take on that experience. I think that's the most important thing for anyone considering a career in cyber security. This is a long-term, high-ceiling career that is in dire need for the next 10-20 years. 

Can someone without a degree or previous work experience in tech successfully make a career pivot in cyber security? 

Deborah: Absolutely! If you have no previous tech experience or degree, it might take a little bit longer transitioning into an actual cyber security role, but a lot of our grads are transitioning into IT tech-related roles in order to pivot their career and start their journey within cyber security. 

I just got this alumni testimonial yesterday: “Before joining the Cyber Security Bootcamp, I had zero background in the field. No degree. The intensive, three-month Cyber Security Program at Lighthouse Labs not only equipped me with valuable knowledge, but also offered a unique learning experience that surpassed my expectations! The highlight was the internship opportunity facilitated by Lighthouse Labs. This hands-on experience in a real-life setting was invaluable, allowing me to apply the skills that I gained during bootcamp to practical situations. I'm truly grateful for the guidance, mentorships, and resources Lighthouse Labs has provided throughout my journey. Your commitment to helping individuals transition into the cyber security field is evident and greatly appreciated.”

Jake: I don't think you need a degree. In a lot of other careers or fields, having a degree is great, but it's definitely not necessary or needed. The thing about cyber security is that a lot of employers, or even hiring managers, care more about who you are as a person, rather than what you have and what you bring. I've met lots of employers and hiring managers who mentioned that they want to understand who you are as an individual, what your goals are, what you can do, how willing you are to learn on your own, etc. If you have that, then in a lot of cases, it can be worth more than a degree! If you're willing to put in that effort and prove that you have what it takes to learn, you'll impress a lot of people. Get your name out there, push yourself out of your comfort zone, and show them you're willing to do what it takes, and they'll appreciate that.

Transferable skills are a great benefit of hiring bootcamp grads since they typically have experience in another field. When we’re thinking of career changers, why are transferable skills important in a cyber security career?

Jeremy: They're important in almost any job, especially when you're looking to do a career transition. Like Jacob and Deborah said, experience is not necessary, and I agree with that. Obviously, we run a bootcamp where we have people coming without experience. Without experience, there's this stage of figuring out what you need to do to build your career. 

The idea of motivated professionals and motivated people is what the bootcamp field is built on. People who are assessing and interviewing for junior-level roles know that an interviewee’s skills (whether they went to university, college, learned online, or went to a bootcamp) are only so good. At Lighthouse Labs, students actually have to use skills in a work-like environment, and that practicality is appealing to a lot of employers. Employers will be assessing your set of skills, but then they're looking at: 

  • Are you motivated enough to make it over the hump of being an entry-level person that I'm going to have to coach and make sure is coming along?
  • Are you going to learn aggressively? 
  • Are you going to be good at communicating with other people? 
  • Are you going to be a positive or a negative on our team? 
  • Most importantly in the cyber security field, when you are dealing with stress, are you going to be able to deal with that? Are you going to be able to problem solve calmly or not? 

All those things are not cyber security specific. The transferable skill is sitting in a job where you have a very difficult thing to do, you have to problem-solve, and you trust yourself to figure it out and move it forward, and you deal with everybody around you properly. Those kinds of things make a very big difference for how someone's assessing you in an interview and assessing you in your first job. Entry-level jobs are opportunities to continue learning, and employers would much rather have someone who aggressively pursues that and has strong motivation as to why they want to do that than they would someone who has a nice certificate, but shows very little interest in the actual field of work.

Top 3 Transferable Skills for Cyber Security

1. Business Acumen

Jeremy: I’d say acumen. It’s more major in a cyber career than in a web development or data career. You need to understand that stakeholders have to be bought in on any cyber security proposals and processes. Business acumen and how you share and communicate, but also how well you know the domain itself, where the threats may be, where the problems may be, and how you think about that is very important as a transferable skill. People who have some business acumen is something that a lot of employers want in their entry-level hires.

2. Research & Intelligence Gathering

Jake: I'll admit this is a hard one for me to answer because in reality, the true answer here is that there's no skill that is not transferable! Every past skill you've learned or practiced will be able to relate to cyber security. Students can take their past tasks and look at what those specific tasks taught them and see what they've learned from them, and then look into how they can relate that to certain cyber security roles and use that as a skill on its own. 

A good example is for a field in cyber security that we call threat researching. A good threat researcher needs to be able to gather research and intelligence from many different resources, keep track of it, look into its value towards your work, and compile it. If you take a look at policing and the military they're always being briefed with information, they're investigating cases, they're gathering information and taking statements. They have to take all that information and compile it and see what they can use. Having those skills is a huge asset in not only threat researching, but in a lot of cyber roles. Many roles require these research and intelligence gathering skills. 

3. Communication

Deborah: One of the top transferable skills from different previous careers is communication. Most tech projects or cyber security incidents often involve a lot of collaboration among cross-functional teams. You could be talking with developers, designers, project managers, your tech team, or IT support team, so effective communication ensures that team members can understand and convey ideas. Being able to give feedback whenever you're dealing with clients and dealing with an incident is important — cyber security professionals need to be able to understand the client's needs and the technical concepts in a manner that they will understand. Communication is top on my list, but as Jake and Jeremy said, there are lots of transferable skills that an employer will take into consideration from their previous work experience.

What are employers looking for when interviewing for entry-level cyber security roles? Will they be looking for these transferable skills?

Deborah: Whenever you're going through your interview, employers will be assessing your communication skills. Being able to convey the answers that they want to hear will formulate an idea for them to understand that you can deal with stress management. That's very important in cyber security. Getting breached is a very stressful experience. Giving them examples of your previous experience dealing with a stressful situation can help them assess that you have those transferable skills.

What are your tips for students on how to flex transferable skills in the job interview process?

Jeremy: Differentiating yourself as a junior and as an entry-level person coming in without too much experience is really difficult to do. What matters the most when you want to flex a transferable skill is that you're talking about it in relation to how it actually works in the field and why you understand it to be important. The more you're aligned with that skill, the more employers get that you understand how to apply it. The application of a skill is what differentiates most people once they're in the job. What you're really looking to do is demonstrate where you've potentially used it elsewhere and how that example is relevant to the kind of field and space that you're going in.

Interviews are really difficult. A technical interview is a place where you get to flex certain skills and not others. A behavioral interview is a place where you get to talk about yourself. Concise, strong stories that mention not the job title but the specific skill that you used in solving a problem in a meaningful way is the best way that you can show somebody that you grasp what matters in the job.

Are there certain jobs that transition especially well into a cyber security career?

Jeremy: Analyst skills and operations backgrounds are two areas that are very valuable heading into cyber. Entry-level analyst roles are some of the most important areas to look at if you have that skill. Being within the operations field has a huge advantage going into cyber. 

Deborah: Anything in the IT field, from IT support, systems administration, network administrator, and software development programming directly related to tech and IT. We have a lot of grads who want to focus on cyber security and have a tech background, so it’s more of an upskill for them to do the actual bootcamp and then proceed to the next level in their career and in their journey in cyber security. 

What kinds of jobs have your past students had before making a career change into cyber security through Lighthouse Labs?

Jake: I've definitely seen students come from all over, often in fields like legal, business, military, and tech-related ones like web development or IT. I've also seen people come from accounting or bookkeeping. Keep in mind that cyber security isn't all technical. There are a lot of soft skills you can use and leverage in cyber security and it really doesn't matter where they come from. I worked at McDonald's for two years and most people think that's a good first job to make some money when you’re a kid. But in reality, that job taught me a lot more than that! I learned social skills, how to work in a very fast environment, and customer service, which are all a part of cyber security. Whatever experience you have, don't discount it — It can be transferred into cyber security because of how wide the field is.

When I first heard this question, one particular Lighthouse Labs student came to mind. He started out doing land surveying, worked in warehouses, and then became an officer in the military. He had no prior tech experience at all. He asked me, “What do you think would be a good career, given my past experience?” As soon as he said military officer, I told him to check out threat researching and threat intelligence and that's all he looked for. Since then, he’s been a cyber threat intelligence analyst!

The tech job market has been a rollercoaster this past year. Have Lighthouse Labs Cyber Security students been landing cyber security roles after graduating

Jeremy: The job market has been wild! In ten years of running Lighthouse Labs, I haven't seen it quite like this. In 2021, there was this sense that everyone was going to land a tech job and a high salary almost immediately. In 2024, the amount of time it takes to land a tech job is taking longer. The amount of applicants that HR is getting for tech jobs is larger. People need to show that they're motivated and driving towards success as opposed to just sending out resumes and expecting 20 calls back. This crazy job market has emphasized that this is not a gold rush. If you just like the salary and you don't like the field, tech won't be for you. You need to come motivated and ready to go. Working on side projects and improving your skills regularly are a must in 2024. 

At Lighthouse Labs, we have this great program powered by Upskill Canada. There is a large amount of scholarships for people coming into cyber who have 1-3 years of work experience. Going into an IT role first and then moving into a cyber role may be the right path towards a long career. That said, the more previous experience you have, the more you may be able to hop right into cyber roles. For people coming into this field, they may want to look at internships to get work experience and then parlay that experience into cyber roles. 

What is your advice for incoming cyber security students on making the most of their Lighthouse Labs experience? 

Jake: As you're learning, take a look at the why. Ask yourself: Why am I learning this? How will it be used? What fields is this used in? Now take a look at yourself and ask: Are there any skills from my past that I can relate to this? 

Doing this as you go can help you figure out where in cyber security you want to go and if your background can help you get there. A lot of the questions we get from students are about which field they should go into in cyber security.  A lot of it is preference. But if you can leverage past soft skills and allow that to help you find a role in cyber security, that's going to make it a lot easier!

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

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps. With a background in writing, teaching, and social media management, Jess plays a pivotal role in helping Course Report readers make informed decisions about their educational journey.

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