Welcome back to the next instalment of Unusual Journeys into Infosec, where I prod the fruit bowl of life, to find ripe stories and inspiration to feed those who are looking to break into this wonderful industry and community!
This time we have Frootware, who is currently working as a support analyst and is working hard to break into the industry. She has been a member of The Many Hats Club community I co-run with BuysDogs, and over this period of time I have come to develop a huge amount of admiration and respect for her.
Here is her story (so far).
I feel like I have to build up my theoretical knowledge and practical skills at the snap of my fingers. -Frootware 2018
CyberSecStu (CSS): My vision for this article (or series), is to help break the illusion that you have to follow a certain route to have a career in Infosec. Can you tell me a little about your background?
Frootware (FW): So I’m working full time and doing a degree with the Open University right now, in BSc. (Hons) IT & Computing with a second subject in Psychology.
My parents are both computer people, pretty much for as long as computers have been publicly available in my dad’s case, and my mum went along for the ride and found her niche too. I do often joke that I never had a choice about being in IT in some capacity. Through most of school I was never quite sure of what I wanted to do.
I bounced around from doctor, to author, to geneticist, to singer, to actor, to lawyer, to chef, and now I’m here in IT. In sixth form college (which is like junior & senior year in American high school), I started out with a broad range of subjects to study because I still wasn’t sure — I did IT, Psychology, Law and Business.
I did alright in those subjects but exams aren’t my jam, so I moved to a more coursework based course that was purely IT — there were classes on Web Design, Object Oriented Programming, Systems Support, Databases, all sorts really. The IT department at my college did its best, but there were organisational problems and mocking from senior staff and issues with supporting students too.
I remember going for one optional class under the impression it would have a security focus, and security was about a third of the entire syllabus for that class, being generous.
The various annoyances I had with the department made me swear off IT completely, which is when I looked at other options. While I was still on that course, I looked at doing a degree in law, but knew from my previous legal studies that I had a hard time remembering exact specifics about cases so thought maybe not and considered what I loved.
I knew I loved food, and I loved writing, and I loved performing — so I went about with an aim of one day being a TV chef.
I started a food blog, which still exists, and set about looking for apprenticeships and training in catering. I had a hands-on interview at a Michelin starred restaurant nearby and found myself getting very anxious while in the kitchen. I have issues with perfectionism that make me catastrophise and blame myself for any small mistake, and there are times where my brain tries to convince me to give up on a path and go elsewhere.
I knew that kind of mentality could end up very dangerous in a kitchen, so I poked back to IT. I got my current job as an first line support analyst a year ago, and started my degree about a month later.
CSS: So why the interest in Infosec?
FW: I first knew about Cyber Security in 2013 with the outbreak of CryptoLocker, and I got very interested, and I retained that interest. I could also blame the fact that my life-long favourite movie is Hackers, to be fair.
CSS: Everyone loves Hackers- hack the planet! I love both Hackers and Sneakers equally.
FW: I never really got into Sneakers but I think part of that was because Sneakers is a more… I don’t know, a serious movie? And I was a kid so the bright colours in Hackers appealed more hahaha.
CSS: What do you think we can do as an Industry to better support people with backgrounds like yours to break into Infosec?
FW: From my personal experience with it, I sometimes look around the communities for the industry and it’s a bit of… I don’t know, so much going on?
I know some places are trying to help build methods of explaining possible paths in Cyber Security but right now my only goal is “cybersec!”, I’ve not really got any pathway beyond that.
I feel like having the information available to show what ways you can go and how to get there would be really useful. I know a lot of people kind of fall into the industry one way or another, but I know people who are like me and just actively pursuing the career path instead of dropping in and waving non-chalantly.
I’ve just bounced around all over the place in mental planning for careers and stuff, really. I know I did a few careers tests once, and I basically got /all the jobs/ which was a bit of “…great, now what?”
What do you perceive your biggest barrier to entry into this market?
I think it’s a combination of knowledge/skills and confidence. I’ve said before to people I know in the industry around here that I feel like I’m playing catch-up with people established in the industry, and also knowing there’s a skills shortage. I feel like I have to build up my theoretical knowledge and practical skills at the snap of my fingers.
CSS: Would you change anything about your journey so far?
FW: I think about the only thing I’d want to change is not letting myself get alienated from the IT industry just because I disapproved of actions that my college made. But I’m trying not to get myself hung up on what I could’ve been doing in the meantime and focusing on making progress and learning what I can. Being an Infosec sponge, if you will.
CSS: Finally you’ve been a member of The Many Hats Club (TMHC), community for a while now, how has that helped?
FW: Oh, definitely. TMHC has been a major eye-opener in terms of what I can expect in Infosec and the sort of things that could be available to me.
It’s been a real confidence boost to have suddenly found myself befriending some of the people I looked up to last year, and I know the community has really encouraged me with my blog (which I’m again grateful for).
Obviously being an admin in an Infosec community mentioned on BleepingComputer doesn’t hurt future attempts to break into the industry too!
With Frootware, we learn about the pressure to learn “all the knowledge” to keep up with the industry.
The reality is that Infosec has so many domains that becoming a master of all of them is an unrealistic goal.
However finding one or two domains that interest you and really honing your skills will really help you stand out amongst the crowd. Be confident in your subject matter, and this will show quickly and get you noticed, and accelerate journey into Infosec!
Main Image Credit : The awesome piece of artwork used to head this article is called 'Fruit Heart' and it was created by graphic designer Simon Henke.