Top 5 Security Career Struggles

September 7, 2015

When I wrote my new book (get it here), I wrote it very much as a forward looking book. It didn’t matter where you started from, but where to get you going. Some of the initial reaction to the big has been sentiments like this has highlighted what I was doing wrong.

So I thought today, I would outline the Top 5 Security Career Struggles that I see on a regular basis with a few recommendations on getting past them.

1. One Trick Pony

Almost half of the book emphasizes a broad security knowledge. I frequently see people get into security and then diving deep into a very specific area. Fantastic. But if you never get beyond that one thing it makes it very hard to get promoted.

In fact, when I look at a resume and see someone who has moved through 2 or 3 jobs — showing progression — but never moving beyond that one thing, I wonder whether they are a one trick pony.

Security changes too frequently and the needs of an information security group are constantly evolving. Only be deep in one area is a risky proposition.

**Solution: **Find ways to broaden your skill set. An entire approach to doing this is in the book.

2. Activities Don’t Drive to Outcomes

I made this mistake when I spoke at Blackhat. Speaking at BlackHat elevates your career, right? Makes sense. And it does… if you’re in the security researcher space. In the corporate consulting space, it was novel. I had a great time… I’m glad I did it… but it didn’t do anything for my career.

Think of all of the extracurricular things you do. Are they driving to the outcome you want?

**Solution: **Do some long-term thinking/goal setting. Where do you want to be and what activities will get you there? This is definitely a place for a mentor to jump in and provide guidance on whether those activities are really going to drive to the outcome you want.

3. Leaving Your Job for the Wrong Reasons

The grass is always greener at the other job.

We’re in a bit of a security salary bubble right now. I’m seeing big jumps in salary to get people to move jobs. As an employer, it’s the only way to get them to move. As an employee, though, money doesn’t buy a better career path.

**Solution: **Focus on your career objectives instead of salary. Yeah, money talks. But I’ve seen people make strategic moves that have net them more money long term that the short term salary bump.

4. No Where To Go Up

This happens when the person above you isn’t going anywhere. Or they don’t need a manager or director version of you. I’ve unfortunately also seen a version of this where your manager doesn’t want to promote you because you’re too valuable in your current role.

**Solution: **The easy answer is to quit. I never put that as option 1. Getting stuck is often a symptom of being too narrow — it’s one of the primary reasons to have broad security knowledge. Instead of taking your bosses job, are there other jobs that you can fill? Even a short term lateral move could put you in a better position for a promotion.

5. It’s Your Attitude

Let’s face some hard news. Many of the people I don’t see getting a promotion show their anger and frustration regularly. It’s misdirected. They’re frustrated about their role or their boss and they take it out in their interactions with other teams. You’re showing the company that you’re not ready or committed to a promotion.

Solution: I know, it’s not you. But you’re asking for a friend. It’s a tough one. If you’re misdirecting your anger, you’ve probably been angry for a while. Things haven’t been going well. You can’t just wake up one morning and never be angry again.

And yet you can. You can be a team player. You don’t have to be little miss sunshine, but you can be glass half full instead of glass half empty. It will be gradual but you can turn it around. I also firmly believe that even a small effort to turn it around will have big impacts on your peers.

Continuing the Dialogue

Next Monday, I will be releasing a new video series on growing your career. The issues above are the long term effects while the video series are foundational steps. The videos are complementary to my book. Super interested and ready to sign up? Go here to sign up today. Otherwise, look for a post on Monday about the new video series.