What Skills Are Needed for a Job in Cybersecurity in New Orleans?
We’ve all seen scores of TV shows and movies glorifying the mystifying abilities of hackers to infiltrate computer systems to steal sensitive information or install malware to destroy an organization. While the outlandish accomplishments of hackers like Elliot Alderson in Mr. Robot, Harold Finch in Person of Interest, or Huck Finn in Scandal are, thankfully, romanticized, the reality is that hackers can cause irreparable damage.
In 2017, the Equifax cyber attack affected 143 million American, Canadian, and British customers whose names, birth dates, social insurance numbers, driver’s license numbers, and 200,000 credit card numbers were compromised. In 2018, Marriott revealed that hackers had been stealing the personal data, including banking information, of up to 500 million guests over a period of 4 years. Though the crown for the largest hacking of individual data in history goes to the 2013 Yahoo! cyber attack, when hackers gained access to the names, dates of birth, telephone numbers, and passwords of 3 billion user accounts.
Understanding the gravity of these threats is the first step in truly appreciating the work of cybersecurity professionals. As a discipline, “cybersecurity” means the protection of computer systems and networks from damage or theft to hardware, software, or electronic data. Also known as IT security, or computer security, this practice also endeavors to protect from the disruption of the services provided by networks and computer systems.
Put plainly, if your organization has a website, communicates through emails and online messaging, or stores documents and information online - either through a dedicated server or on the cloud - it is vulnerable to cyber attacks and is therefore in need of a cybersecurity strategy that will protect it. This constitutes an immense undertaking and employs professionals whose job function is in constant demand.
What Is a Cybersecurity Job Like in New Orleans?
The New Orleans, LA area has been emerging as a hub for new startups, tech companies, and established organizations across a number of industry sectors, and cybersecurity is a vital component of protecting the hardware, software, and online data through which they function. It is no surprise, then, that the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals has been growing steadily in this area, across both the public and private sectors.
While many cybersecurity professionals end up specializing in a unique function, they also wear various hats and go beyond the job description of just one role on a day-to-day basis. If you have always been drawn to technology and the opportunities around this dynamic industry, cybersecurity is likely to be an exciting and rewarding career path for you.
A day in the life of a cyber professional will vary, so the ability to adapt and respond to whatever immediate needs arise is the key to success in this profession. While occasionally there might be a crisis that requires after-hours attention, a typical job is a 9-5, or about eight hours every day made up of technology learning, problem-solving, risk assessment, data privacy, and general security.
In the NOLA area specifically, you are likely to be part of the cybersecurity team for organizations in one of these main local industry sectors: energy production and distribution, advanced manufacturing, BioSciences, digital media, environmental development, international trade, and, of course, tourism and hospitality.
What Cybersecurity Skills Are the Most Important?
Contrary to cinematic fantasies, cybersecurity professionals do not sit alone in dark rooms staring at lines of code all day. Many of the most common cybersecurity roles involve working in a team environment, collaborating with colleagues towards the common goal of identifying threats and defending against them. As varied as your specific job function can be, there are a few common soft skills that are a good predictor of success as a cybersecurity professional.
- Attention to Detail
To detect vulnerabilities and risks, you need to be highly vigilant and detail-oriented. In your cybersecurity role, you’re likely to be responsible for continuously monitoring networks, and it is your attention to details that will enable you to swiftly identify any concerns and deploy security solutions in real-time.
- Creative Problem Solving
To a certain extent, cybersecurity professionals adhere to established processes that have been proven effective in protecting networks in the past. However, new technologies and hacking strategies emerge every day, so your ability to creatively solve novel problems will play a major role in your day-to-day work.
- Clear Communication
As a cybersecurity professional, you will be collaborating internally with colleagues on your team every day, but you might also be working closely with clients. As such, your ability to clearly and concisely communicate your findings or concerns, as well as to translate complex technical issues in plain English will be a major advantage for your success in this job function.
As far as hard skills go, cybersecurity professionals will also need to build job-specific competencies that go beyond a natural inclination and aptitude for working in IT. Obviously, there are specific skills needed for cybersecurity that you’ll build in training and on the job that are unique to your role, but generally speaking, all successful cybersecurity professional have the following in common:
- Computer Science Basics
All cybersecurity professionals need an understanding of the inner workings of the very thing they are tasked with protecting. However, computer science is a complex and multifaceted field, which can be approached from a number of angles: data structures and algorithms; programming languages; operating systems. You will need a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of computer science regardless of what cybersecurity specialty you end up concentrating in.
- Programming Know-How
A basic understanding of programming languages is very important for professionals in the cybersecurity field, as it helps to evaluate the likelihood of cyber attacks and to develop appropriate countermeasures. A working knowledge of C, C++, Python, and Java lets cybersecurity professionals better understand, and therefore efficiently protect, the backend of any system.
- Think Like a Black-Hat
You can think of cybersecurity as a game of chess: in order to win you need to be able to anticipate your opponents’ strategy. Similarly, for a cybersecurity specialist to be able to perform their job effectively, they need to understand how black-hat hackers think and see what weaknesses there are in the system that they can exploit. Instead of doing damage-control after an attack, it is far preferable to run some penetration testing and fortify the system ahead of time.
How New Orleanians Can Further Improve Their Cybersecurity Skills
If you went through the list above and found your own skill set wanting, fret not. Nobody is born a cybersecurity professional, and there are a number of ways you can strengthen your competencies and technical know-how.
Depending on your own specific place in the journey to cybersecurity excellence, you might want to consider attending a bootcamp to acquire whatever skills you might be lacking and give your resume a nice boost. Of course, it is entirely possible for you to become proficient in cybersecurity on your own, studying through a combination of hefty manuals and perhaps free recorded lectures - but given the alternative, why would you? Self-teaching is incredibly difficult, affords you no expert feedback, and involves extended hours bent over a keyboard with dwindling motivation. Plus, if you go through all that, you still have no official certification of your cybersecurity proficiency, resulting in a lot of work on your part without any tangible results.
Instead, by attending a Cybersecurity Bootcamp, such as the one offered by the Loyola University of New Orleans, you can build on your current knowledge or start from zero and be ready to enter the workforce in less than a year. The program is a total of 400 hours, spread across about ten months - depending on holidays - which means that with only 8 hours a week, you can completely turn your life around and launch a successful career in cybersecurity.
Loyola University is a respected and trusted academic institution in New Orleans, so by the time you are ready to complete the program and start looking for jobs, you will have a proper certificate from a university that is well-recognized in the area.”. What’s more, because of Loyola University’s ties to the local cybersecurity community, their career services can help you get your foot in the door for your first cybersecurity job, thanks to their extensive hiring partners network.
The Loyola University Cybersecurity Bootcamp is the perfect place for New Orleanians to improve their cybersecurity skills, and they can complete the program without quitting their day job. The bootcamp offers classes during evenings and weekends, and thanks to their virtual learning hub, you won’t even have to worry about commuting to their downtown campus. All classes are taught live by experts, and you and your classmates will be able to take full advantage of peer and instructor feedback without leaving the comfort of your own homes.
The Time to Start Is Now
Wherever you might be in your career journey, and whatever your feelings about your current role land on the job-dissatisfaction scale, it’s time to make a decision and take matters into your own hands. Career changes and promotions don’t come to those who wait around - so don’t delay and create a better professional future.
The Loyola University Cybersecurity Bootcamp cohorts start on a rolling basis throughout the year. To learn more about this opportunity, or to ask any questions you might have about the program, reach out to an admission advisor at (504) 475-1400 or schedule a call using this Calendly link.