Submission By: Tom Gilheany

Yesterday, in Part 1 of this blog post, we talked about how the need for security jobs has changed, and shared how those changes have resulted in more opportunities for security professionals than ever before. However, so many choices (and their combinations) can be confusing and overwhelming, both to hiring managers, and to career planners.

In this post, we break down security career possibilities into four basic areas, each occupying a quadrant in the full circle of security jobs.



CISOs, CSOs, and Managers

In the top right position are the CISO, CSO, and manager. The role of these individuals is to set budgets, priorities, and policies. These team leaders also understand regulatory and legal compliance along with business risks, priorities, and tradeoffs.

The people in these roles need to understand their organization’s industry and business environment in detail, and be superior communicators, since they may spend much of their time communicating with their business stakeholders.

They might also spend more time talking about regulations and budgets than hands-on time with equipment, but they are frequently close to upper management.

Security Architects

The security architect is in the top left. This person understands and evaluates security technologies. He or she designs security controls to meet requirements and budgets, and defines and revises security architecture and controls.

Frequently, this person is the ultimate technical expert on security technologies, and how they should be deployed in an organization.

They may split their time between building and running the security team, researching new requirements and technologies, writing new specifications and procedures, and working with the CISO to obtain needed resources.

Engineers, Technicians, and Administrators

In the lower left quadrant are engineers, technicians, and administrators. They build out and implement the security architecture. They also deploy new systems using best practices and the architect’s guidelines. And they respond to requests from the architect and security operations.

These critical people get the most “hands-on” time with technologies and security controls. They are experts in building secure environments, and do much of their work securing the deployment of new technologies.

Security Operations Personnel

Security operations is in the lower right quadrant. The job of security operations center (SOC) team members is to detect, analyze, and respond to security events. These employees make sure that security equipment operates effectively and properly. They detect, respond to, and investigate security attacks and events. They clean up after security breaches.

These people spend much of their time working with detection tools, investigating alarms, and responding to them. They may spend some of their time dealing with security audits, and making sure that security controls are operating properly.

They may be cross-trained in various different types of systems being protected, and/or have some forensics responsibilities, collecting evidence for investigators. They typically work in a heavy team environment.

Train for the Role

Once you know which quadrant(s) you are interested in, it’s important to know what competencies are needed for that role, what training teaches that knowledge, skills, and/or abilities, and what certifications can help to prove to employers that you are “job-ready” for the role.

As an example, the Cisco CCNA Cyber Ops designation very much applies to the cybersecurity operations role, while the CCIE Security certification would apply more to an architect role.

Organizations with strong teams have a varying level of experience across their security teams, enabling their team members to both contribute at their existing level and to grow their value to the team. This opens up multiple hiring chances no matter where you are in your career.

Hiring organizations are also becoming aware of the role of career growth and learning opportunities in retaining critical security talent—a key skill for them to master while facing the cybersecurity workforce shortage.

Know the security roles you’re interested in, plan your career growth, and explore your options, because never has there been more opportunity for advancement and career growth than there is now in cybersecurity. The need is great and so are the rewards.

I welcome your thoughts—please start a discussion in the comments.

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Tom Gilheany_final_thumb.jpgTom Gilheany is Cisco’s Product Manager for Security Training and Certifications. He has a diverse background in startups through multinational Fortune 100 companies. Combining over 20 years of product management and technical marketing positions, and more than a dozen years in IT and Operations, he has conducted nearly 50 product launches in emerging technologies, cybersecurity, and telecommunications. Tom is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), holds an MBA, and is an active board member of the Silicon Valley Product Management Association and Product Camp Silicon Valley.