cyBARR Chats Episode 11: Cybersecurity Careers

In this episode of cyBARR Chats, we’re joined by Kristin Strand, associate consultant, to discuss her experience breaking into the cybersecurity industry and the biggest challenges and rewards of a cybersecurity career.


[00:00:00] Claire McKenna: Hello everyone and welcome to today’s episode of cyBARR Chats. My name is Claire McKenna, and today we’re joined by Kristin Strand, associate consultant here at BARR in honor of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, October, we’ll be discussing what it’s like to have a career in cybersecurity. Kristin first joined BARR as an apprentice consultant through Apprenti Kansas City.

And after a short three months, Kristin has now secured a full-time position. So Kristin let’s dive right in. Why did you choose to pursue a career in cybersecurity?

[00:00:32] Kristin Strand: Well, I chose cybersecurity because after being a teacher and that job was really rewarding and I wanted to find another job that would still be as rewarding feeling like I was doing something meaningful, but I of course wanted to make a little more money.

So cybersecurity, I felt was a job that would have security. The world is, you know, evolving still technologically. And I felt like I would always be able to find a job in cybersecurity, which is one of the reasons that I pursued a career in teaching as well, because I felt like there was job security there.

So for those reasons, job security and still wanting to have a meaningful career, I chose cybersecurity.

[00:01:24] Claire McKenna: Yeah, that’s great. And you mentioned, you know, you were a teacher before, what was it like breaking into the cyber secure cyber security industry later in your career?

[00:01:35] Kristin Strand: Um, it was definitely scary. Um, it was a risk to take, but I felt like it was worth it. And I had honestly toyed with the decision for years, and then it was kind of like this opportunity for. Right into my lap and it was perfect for what I was looking for. So it was scary, but it was exciting. And now being here and having been successful and made the transition and it worked out well, it’s definitely encouraging and motivating for me to keep on going and to be the best that I can be here in cybersecurity.

[00:02:14] Claire McKenna: That’s great. It is definitely exciting. So from your perspective, what do you think the most important skills someone should have to succeed in the cybersecurity industry are? 

[00:02:24] Kristin Strand: Um, in my opinion, important skills are definitely that attention to detail. You kind of want to use a fine tooth comb to not miss those small details that can make a big difference.

Um, also just being. Persevere like, you know, don’t give up to keep looking and keep finding whatever it is that you’re looking for and whatever it is that you’re working at to just be determined and to not give up to be open to changes. Definitely adapt well, and to be flexible because like I said before, It’s uh, cybersecurity is changing almost like every day.

And so just be open to changing and being flexible and learning new things and not get stagnant.

[00:03:15] Claire McKenna: Yeah. That’s awesome. And you have some relevant certifications. I know. So how do your comp Tia certifications help with your role?

[00:03:25] Kristin Strand: Yeah. Um, so I have a network plus and security plus, and C Y S a plus as well.

And they’re, they’re kind of foundational for me. So they give me a good basis to go off of when I’m looking at controls and documenting and kind of looking at these systems of the client’s a good foundation to put the other pieces together of the puzzle. So while I don’t have a background in auditing, having those certifications and going through that training, at least lets me understand.

Okay, well, at least I know what I’m looking at. Um, you know, from a conceptual standpoint, I understand what these systems are supposed to do and why they have them in place there. And that kind of helps me, like I said, it gives me a foundation to do well and to put the documentation together.

[00:04:18] Claire McKenna: Yeah, that’s great. What would you say the biggest challenges are for starting a career in cybersecurity?

[00:04:27] Kristin Strand: I think in my opinion, for me, the biggest challenges were just getting in the door. And I will say getting in the door with the knowledge that I needed to actually be successful, especially coming from, I got a math degree.

And then I was a teacher for seven years, which is what I wanted to do. So I didn’t really know anything about cybersecurity. I knew that it was what I wanted to do. At a certain point, probably about three or four years ago. I said, you know, I wanted to break into cybersecurity, but being in a position to get that knowledge because I still, you know, like I said, didn’t have the education and I still needed to make a living and take care of my family.

So I needed a way to get into cyber security without having to drop everything and go back to school. Um, so for me, that was the hardest part. About getting in, just being able to find a way to get the knowledge that I needed to actually be successful to do a good job in the industry.

[00:05:30] Claire McKenna: Right. And on the flip side of that, what are the most rewarding or fulfilling parts of working in cybersecurity?

[00:05:39] Kristin Strand: So what’s fulfilling for me is kind of like what I was talking about at the beginning. Just knowing that I’m still doing something that makes a difference and really. Just now understanding what it is to be a cybersecurity professional, to be protecting people’s, you know, personal information, the things that you wouldn’t hear, somebody say, well, these are the things I hold near and dear, but they definitely hold their, you know, their personal data near and dear.

And just knowing like the workings and what it is that the cybersecurity professionals are doing, how are they keeping your data safe? You know there’s so many breaches going on right now and you read about them and, but when you’re not working in the field, you don’t really understand, well, what is really, how did this person, you know, get my information and what can I do to keep it safe.

So just knowing that this is really an important. ’cause um, these issues are real. These vulnerabilities are real and people, bad. People are really out there trying to get your information and knowing that you can be a part of just making people aware or even stopping them and making it even harder or impossible for them to get their information is rewarding.

[00:06:56] Claire McKenna: Yeah, definitely. I can imagine. So. And lastly, just to close out, Kristin, what advice would you give to someone who wants to make a career shift into cybersecurity?

[00:07:09] Kristin Strand: Um, well, first and foremost, I would say definitely go for it. Um, but I will tell people all the time whenever they ask me to know what you want and to stick to it, be you know, be determined and.

Uh, stay strong, you know, don’t waiver, don’t fold. Don’t just go for something because people are saying, well, this is what I had to do to get in. Well, this is the way that everyone’s doing it. Do your research and know what it is that you want to do and find your way that you can get to that point, because there are so many opportunities out there for funding and for learning and for whatever it is that you want to do in cybersecurity.

So just know what you want to do and stick with it and don’t let anyone. You know, deter you from your plan, tell you like, well, no, you have to do it a certain way because you got. And I learned that and I’m so happy that I stuck with what I wanted to do. And didn’t let someone say, well, just go do help desk first.

And then you get to cybersecurity because that’s what I heard a lot that, oh, you know, most people go into cybersecurity through the help desk. So I almost went that route, but I’m so happy that I didn’t have to do that because I was determined like, no, that’s not what I want to do. I’m going to shoot for what I want to do.

So. That is my advice. Stay determined and do what you want to do.

[00:08:34] Claire McKenna: That is definitely fantastic advice. Kristin, thank you so much for sharing your experience and your insight with us. And we look forward to seeing everyone next time on cyBARR Chats.