Military to Cyber Security – a PGI Case Study

27 Nov 2017

Military to Cyber Security – a PGI Case Stud...

It is amazing how nervous and worried a person can be to click on a mouse several times, however when these seven clicks represent you leaving a career in the military and the thought of potentially not having a guaranteed income it becomes more understandable. 

The reason why can vary from person to person, for myself it was a multitude of different motives. I felt I needed to challenge myself once again, this time round I mean mentally. I had punished my body for years in the Royal Marines through numerous courses and trips to the Jungle and Afghanistan. It was now time to punish my mind. Secondly to that my wife was pregnant and the thought of missing 6 months of my child’s life to time to bob around the Mediterranean did not appeal to me or the better half!

After a brief spell in the physical security area mostly conducting investigations and surveillance I discovered a whole new environment, cyber security. Not coming from a technical background and without a degree I knew this was going to be a challenge. I am writing this on my second day as a cyber security consultant for PGI Cyber so I am proof with a lot of dedication and time it can be done!

Below are a few steps that will hopefully help you with any career path not just cyber security.

1.     Pick the right time.

If you have already completed those several clicks congratulations move on to step 2, if however, you are still contemplating this may help. There are a few questions you need to ask yourself:  Why do I want to leave? What point in my career am I? What are the positives and negatives about staying in? If you only have a few years to push for pension it might be worth waiting, however the more time in the military is less time building your new career.

If you are contemplating leaving but think I will wait until I have secured a job first, dont. No employer will take you in a year from now, commit yourself and it will give you the drive you need to learn your new skills as the 365-day countdown looms.

2.     Find an area.

So, you have made the commitment and are now choosing your future career path. Most military have a tendency to think they would only be suitable working within the physical security world. There is a wide variety of roles that ex-military suit which might not be looked at such as project management or cyber security. Know what your strengths are, think about what interests you and do not be afraid to take a step in a new direction.

3.     Find help

Once you have established your career path reach out to others for help and advice. Find ex-military in your desired area, for example on LinkedIn I searched “Royal Marine Cyber” then broadened my search to “military cyber”. 99% percent of the people I messaged replied, I even messaged a CEO of a large banking organisation and received great advice. You are not messaging these people asking for a job, you are asking for their advice and guidance on training, qualifications and the career path they took.

An excellent way to gain experience and to promote yourself is through a work placement. Yes, work experience may seem like something you do when 16 years old however it is extremely beneficial especially if you are moving into a new area.

An excellent program is VETS you can find ex-military or pro military professionals who mentor servicemen and women leaving the forces. When you are at the placement all the usual etiquette applies: Be on time, where a suit, smile, ask questions, and network! Even if they do not offer you a job someone you meet may know of a position in another company.

4.     Courses and qualifications

There are multiple free online learning sources for most careers. If you are looking at the cyber industry, then is a great website for learning the basics. You may also want to look at Groupon for very cheap e-learning courses, I paid £30 for a Project Managers e-learning course and it was enough for me to pass both the foundation and practitioners exams. CTP offer free courses just using your IRTC grants, such as CompTIA A+, CCNA and plenty more. Already without spending much money you can get yourself qualified to an entry level position.

Now that you are at a base level you want give yourself an advantage on your competitors in the market, this is where ELCAS comes in to play. Think carefully about who you want to spend your money on, see it as you have saved the £2000 rather than have been given it.  There are some excellent courses out there, I completed my QSTM for penetration testing with PGI Cyber which gave me the skills I needed to begin my career, for more senior roles they also offer courses on CISSP and ISO27001. Any courses you decide on make sure you research them and ask your new-found network for their advice.

5.     CV, interviews and recruiters

First person or third person? It does not matter as long as it is consistent. Your CV should never be complete, it should be constantly updated and tweaked to fit the right audience. Do not be afraid to include your online learning or work placements, these show employers that you have a general interest in your subject and you are willing to commit your personal time to developing knowledge.

When interviewing, this may sound obvious but wear a suit and tie, it is amazing how many people especially in the cyber security environment feel its ok to dress scruffy at an interview! Have examples lined up of when you have had relevant experience it may not be obvious at first but there is plenty of experiences you would have had In your career where you can demonstrate traits they are looking for.

Recruiters can be your biggest nightmare or your worst enemy, again try and connect with ex-military recruiters you will be surprised how many there are. Be polite remember they will be putting your forward for positions and do not be afraid to contact them it might be the reminder they need. 

6.     Being lucky!

Throughout my career in the military there was numerous occasions where I got told I how lucky I was. Whether it was being put onto a Jungle Tracking Instructors course or being promoted early, apparently, it was always down to luck. Most recently even my sister said “wow you’re lucky” when I secured the perfect job after turning down multiple offers and interviews. Luck is not real, hard work is, so if you start hearing these comments being thrown around then you know you are on the right track and you are working hard! 

Thanks for reading I hope there has been some useful points, please feel free to contact me for any advice even if we do not know each other! Finally “good luck” (work hard) and you will achieve what you are looking for.



By Oliver Spence

Cyber Security Consultant

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