The importance of hands-on experience and industry support in cyber security skills development
Skills development is about so much more than attending classroom sessions. To ensure students and trainees are prepared for careers in cyber security, PGI recommends that a mix of practical placements, hands-on labs and mentoring should supplement classroom learning to build the cyber security workforce of the future.
Finding hands-on placements
In July, Women in Cyber Security Middle East (WiCSME) Jordan Affiliate Group members Joyce and Razan were given an opportunity to broaden their professional skills and supplement their cyber security studies and training with valuable hands-on practical experience.
PGI’s General Manager for the Levant region, Wafa’ Nimri, founder of the WiCSME Jordan Affiliate Group, identified a regional digital forensics project that PGI’s partner Affinitas-Global (a unique cyber incident management and response consultancy business) had asked PGI to help resource as an opportunity for cyber security students to gain practical experience. With Affinitas-Global’s generous support, she promoted this to the WiCSME network and cyber security students, Joyce and Razan gladly volunteered.
The benefits of work experience
Both students jumped at the chance to work alongside experienced digital forensics practitioners and to put into practice the skills and knowledge they have gained over the course of their studies, and for Joyce it was about being in a new situation, “I was also exposed to a different environment that is not familiar to my own and learning a lot [of] new things, such as solving obstacles when they suddenly appear,” she said.
For Razan too, the opportunity to work in a team was particularly valuable, because “learning from experienced practitioners” provided an element not found in “theoretical studies”. As Razan’s first practical experience it was a validation of her career choice, “it gave me a new perspective…and made me realise that I picked the right path,” she said.
Joyce concurred with Razan’s thoughts because, “you gain 10% of knowledge from hearing and 50% from hearing and seeing but 80% from doing…so it was a great experience” which gave her the opportunity to play “a supportive role to the main technical team involved in the project”. For Joyce, it also “confirmed her decision that getting into cyber security was the right choice”, she said.
Industry connections make a difference
Importantly, groups like WiCSME and its Jordan Affiliate branch, are providing up and coming cyber security practitioners with the support they need to hit the ground running in the industry, which can be particularly challenging for women. For Joyce and Razan, being part of the WiCSME network is valuable because of the connections it enables them to make, both with more experienced women in their field and with companies—like PGI— that support it to access vital work experience opportunities.
It also provides them access to industry knowledge and data that can help them make decisions about their career paths. Joyce said that “being part of WiCSME-Jordan is of value because of the online conferences in cyber security…and the interesting reports about the work of other women in cyber security and the skills needed in the market”.
PGI is proud to support the WiCSME initiative and lead the UK-Gulf Women in Cybersecurity Fellowship Programme.