It was a real privilege to be invited to be a panelist at the launch event of the TechVets (techvets.co) Digital Cyber Academy (https://www.vetcyberacademy.com) held at Level 39 on Thursday the 8th March.
The TechVets event was the brainchild of four people (Mike Butcher MBE, Peter Connolly, Euan Crawford & Mark Milton) who deserve much praise for pulling it all together. I should add that the event was supported by Amazon, ORACLE, IBM, Google and many other names from the tech industry; however what was significant to me was the support provided by many SME organisations, many of which are run by or employ veterans. These SME’s do not have the large budgets to support such worthy initiatives, but felt that TechVets was important enough to get involved in and I applaud their commitment.
There were many messages from those who had already made the transition from Military to Civilian life, including yours truly, albeit it was sometime ago now that I made my transition into an industry that was in its infancy. The messages were quite clear and succinct, the skills that you learn and practice whilst in all aspects of the military are directly translatable to opportunities in the tech industry. By this I do not mean just the technical skills, but the more softer skills that are often missing from civilians as they have not had the need to use such skills. By way of example, skills such as how to assess a situation, make a plan and execute that plan, once the plan is executed to constantly monitor the execution and make changes as the situation dictates; these are directly related skills to managing incidents within the technology sector; in addition those who assess risk and options at a strategic level have skills that translate directly to Chief Risk Officers (CRO’s) in the corporate environment, I could go on but this would very soon become a job skills translation matrix, maybe something that might be useful but there are better people out there that could put such a matrix together than I. Taking a quick look at the career transition partnership (ctp) website (https://www.ctp.org.uk/) on the home page is a list of 6 transferable skills, namely;
Organisation and commitment
Problem solving and adaptability
Leadership and management skills
Health and safety, security awareness
This was the same list that I was given some 20 plus years ago. I am in no way saying that the career transition partnership is not good and that the process is flawed, far from it, I am sure that the process is well thought through with much help and good advice being provided. Where I think we may have to look deeper is at how the ‘skills and interest analysis’ for leaving servicemen and women is being carried out, and how the results might be mapped to the opportunities that are available in the growing technology sector, just making service leavers aware that these roles exist and that they are capable of doing them would be a start, lets be inclusive, not exclusive in the process.
It was clear to me during the TechVets launch event that when people were talking about Cyber Security they appeared to be focussing more on the service sector and how cyber security experts are utilised by the likes of IBM, ORACLE, SAP, KPMG, NCC Group etc. or one of the myriad of SME consultancy/service companies that are out there. The opportunities for our service leavers is much wider than just the service sector. The last major revolution was the Industrial Revolution and the mechanisation that resulted, the Digital Revolution has enabled business to take the next leap from mechanisation to automation with greater outcomes in terms of productivity and cost reduction. This move towards autonomy transcends all business sectors from the Built Environment, Manufacturing, Transport, Health etc. resulting in opportunities and skills shortages in all these sectors, if you add into this mix the integration of physical security technology (much utilised in the military) with the more traditional cyber security technology there lies an even greater number of opportunities for our service leavers.
It is at this point I guess I must address the topic of skills training. This is a complex and significant topic that I am not going to be able to do justice to here in this short note. The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists (WCIT – https://www.wcit.org.uk/) where I chair the Security Panel have been working for some time to get coherence around Cyber Security and Skills including the modern day apprenticeships in cyber security. In addition there is significant work going on with regard to getting coherence in Professionalising the Cyber Security Professional and the various certifications and awards that are out there. This is important for those going through career transition in knowing what is recognised and relevant to the particular technology security career path they wish to follow. If I was to provide some advice at this point, it would be to look at the professional bodies such as the IET, BCS, ICE, IISP etc., there are many others out there and it would take too long for me to list them all and no inference should be taken by exclusion. Clearly selecting the correct training course when spending your training budget during career transition is essential and this is possibly another area that might be reviewed with regard to career transition, to ensure that the appropriate courses for the various career opportunities are identified and accredited in some way. There is also the possibility of looking at ‘accreditation of prior learning’ where military courses are given credits towards attaining accredited training certifications and academic qualifications. What I do believe is that the Digital Cyber Academy is certainly a good starting point. As someone who did a Health & Safety course for his transition and subsequently did a part time MBA at the Open University to understand how to run a business, then studied a Masters Degree in Information Security at the age of 44; I can say that the resettlement course whilst useful and at times and sometimes relevant in my work, it was not directly relevant to my ultimate career path and I suspect that this may be the same for many others, when a clear course choice for the desired career path does not exist.
As a last thought on the launch, I was very interested in a statement made by a member of the audience where he stated “I do not know how to be a civilian!”, this was followed up by a panel member who pointed out that the Military do look after our servicemen and women very well and that they are sheltered somewhat from life on the other side of the fence. Clearly if this is a widely held view by service leavers, then possibly the resettlement or career transition process needs to be reviewed as to the wider aspects of transition, not just the career path. To get a quick view for myself I went to the .GOV.UK website (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/information-for-service-leavers). Clearly much has moved on since my own transition in the early 90’s (yes I am that old), however I did feel that much of the focus was on career transition, not necessarily transition from military to civilian life.
So in short, I believe we still have much to do in order to maximise the ability of service leavers to move into the cyber security technology sector and help reduce the skills shortage that we are currently experiencing and will continue to have for some time. I therefore offer my congratulations again to those who have worked hard to established TechVets and get it to its launch position and wish all service leavers well in their transition. If I was to offer a note of caution it would be that the TechVets initiative needs to establish itself beyond the current goodwill with a governance structure and to ensure that they avoid becoming an organisation that just feeds the larger service companies.