The announcement of the National Cyber Force has put Britain’s cyber capabilities firmly in the spotlight. But Strategic Command has been leading defence on cyber much longer than that. We asked people on the inside of the cyber world to share their stories in their own words.
Due to the often secret nature of their work we cannot share their pictures or their full names.
This time, we join a married couple, AF and JF, as they discuss how they both got into a career in the cyber world and their shared passion for language and learning:
Have you always wanted a career in cyber?
AF: When I joined the Army in 2016, I had no idea that it was possible to begin a career within cyber. I didn’t have any previous experience within this field, at best I had basic IT skills learned through school. Working in cyber always seemed to be one of those unattainable jobs that only the top computer wizards could do.
JF: When I was at school, I never had more than a passing interest in computers, let alone ever imagined I would end up working at the forefront of the UK’s cyber endeavours.
AF: I believe opportunities within IT and cyber are more current in schools today. When I was at school, computers were ‘nice to have’ rather than ‘need to have’. Of course, today our reliance on computers is far greater.
How did you find your way to military cyber operations?
JF: I initially joined the Army as a linguist, however through my training the prospect of a career in the cyber domain came up and I went for it and I have never looked back. While learning another language was a great opportunity, being able to work and learn about cyber is such a fantastic opportunity, certainly one I wish I had known about when I initially joined the military.
AF: I began my career training as an Arabic Linguist, but it was only towards the end of my 18-month training period that I became aware that Cyber Analyst was an available job role within my service. I believe this a pretty common experience, as the role is so new. With the rapid advancement of technology that has become ever more embedded into our every-day lives, and which seems to grow exponentially, I wanted to grasp the opportunity to apply for one of the most diverse and exciting roles within defence.
What was the transition into cyber like?
AF: The application process began with an aptitude test. Unfortunately, I have never been naturally gifted with anything technical – but I thought it was worth a shot, and at the end of the day, you never know! This was then followed by an interview a couple of weeks later. Luckily, I passed – and soon joined my new unit where I began my training.
JF: Being able to prepare in some way always makes me feel a lot more confident and making the first steps into cyber was no different. I know a lot of people are unsure as to what it requires to start a career in cyber, and what qualifications they may need or benefit from having. But there are no formal qualifications needed beyond having an overall awareness of cyber, and things like previous cyber attacks or new trends. Once you demonstrate an aptitude, then you are given all the training you need.
AF: The training so far has been like nothing I have experienced before. It is highly technical, which I thought I may struggle with at first because cyber is so current, but there are plenty of real word examples to relate the training to – making it easier to digest and understand.
JF: There are also loads of resources publicly available online, from news articles on large data breaches to more hands-on practice with tools if that is your preference. Those can give you a strong first foot into cyber, enabling you to find even more learning resources and become even more confident.
AF: I have had the opportunity to complete civilian certifications in this field, as well as study supporting disciplines such as Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) techniques, and I am now starting to incorporate the techniques I am learning through training into my everyday job as a Cyber Analyst. This is incredibly rewarding, especially as up until a year ago I had absolutely no experience in this field, only an interest and willingness to learn. Like any new skill, my training will become cemented with experience
What would you say to someone thinking of moving into cyber?
JF: My only advice from my own experience is that a desire to learn is the only absolute necessity. If you start your journey wanting to learn everything you possibly can, and seize all the opportunities that this career offers, then you will prosper in this field. No one expects you to come in to this field a fully formed cyber operator, but all the training and experience is waiting for you to take for your own. You just have to want it enough.
AF: The military is rife with opportunities for learning, but never did I imagine that I could begin training in something so complex as cyber with no experience – only a willingness to learn. Now, I look forward to continuing to work within cyber for as long as humanly possible!
There are both Regular and Reserve cyber roles in the Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force.
For more information on Army roles, click here.
If you are interested in joining the Navy, click here.
To find your force as a part of the RAF, click here.
There are also civilian cyber roles within the Ministry of Defence Civil Service. You can sign up for a job alert on CS Jobs here. Simply create an account, select the Job Alerts tab and follow the on-screen instructions.