Acquiring Key Cybersecurity Skills for National Defense

In spite of having 15 years of experience in the management side of IT, Don lacked some of the certifications needed to adjust to current demands. He came to Cybrary to better prepare for exams and, consequently, step into a lucrative new role in the military IT space.

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 Don came to Cybrary in November of 2020. A combat veteran turned security consultant, who had 15 years of IT experience. However, while he had ample experience in the management side, he lacked the technical skills and certifications needed to meet the Department of Defense’s (DoD) current demands. Now he uses Cybrary to prepare for upcoming certifications like CISM and CISSP.

December 20, 2020
December 20, 2020

What's your background?

I joined the army straight out of high school to become an electronics technician for the Hawk Missile System. This was also my first foray into computers, and it was what encouraged me to pursue a bachelor’s in information management systems. I became involved in electronic data systems in 1991, and in 1998, I started a career in IBM selling and marketing IT systems before finally becoming a technical account manager.


 What sparked your interest in cybersecurity?​

During my career at IBM, I stayed mostly on the management side of things. In 2018, I decided I wanted to take on a more technical role, so I took a part-time job as a Chief of Operations in the US Army Reserve. This meant I was responsible for training soldiers and for cyber exercises. That was when I realized I didn’t have the technical knowledge and experience I needed to take my career to the next level.


What did you set out to achieve when you joined Cybrary?

 A friend and colleague told me about Cybrary and recommended I sign up. I took some of the free courses at first, but then I decided to get serious and pursue a certification. After all, it’s really hard to adjust these days if you lack the certifications, which are practically a necessity if you want to get involved in military and government cybersecurity. For example, certifications like CompTIA Security+ and CASP are among the DoD 8570 baseline certifications, so courses for those were the obvious places to start.


How did Cybrary help you achieve your goal?

 Preparing for exams like Security+ and CASP is no easy feat, but Cybrary really helped thanks to its comprehensive courses and, especially, the pre-assessment quizzes.​

Ensuring that I was adequately prepared for these certifications was really important, as you really need to have at least one DoD 8570 baseline certification to get anywhere in military or government cybersecurity. It’s getting harder too. Four or five years ago, they might have hired you on the assumption that you would earn the certification. They’ve cracked down in more recent times, to the point that recruiters won’t even talk to candidates unless they already have a certification.

Cybrary really helped me get up to speed and acquire a baseline level of technical knowledge. It offers a far more comprehensive approach than just learning from a book. It actually shows you how to apply cybersecurity processes in a hands-on way.​

Thanks in a large part to Cybrary, I now have a great role as a senior consultant in a leading IT management and consulting firm in the Defense Industrial Base. I’m now responsible for conducting program management, controlling, and reporting in areas like mission planning, cost, schedule, and performance. I’m also responsible for monitoring and DoD acquisition, and mission and test support for next-generation vehicle combat programs.


What advice would you give to someone new to cybersecurity?

 ​I’d say try to learn as much as you can by consuming many different types of information, such as podcasts and hands-on practice tests, as well as more traditional learning materials. It’s also a great idea to go out and meet others in the community to get the mentorship and support you need to thrive.


What’s next for you?

 My next big goal is to acquire the CISM or CISSP certifications, which looks more achievable now that I’ve developed the practical skills. My ultimate goal after that is to become a Senior Director or Chief Information Security Officer.

"I went through the Security Analyst career path and I’m looking forward to using Cybrary to work toward the CISM and CISSP certifications".

Don Gates
Principal Systems Engineer, SAIC