There is a real need for “boots-on-the-ground” cybersecurity professionals, so why not tap into a pool of trained and motivated veterans?
There are numerous success stories on how veterans are able to transition into the private sector and flourish. One such story involves Sloane Menkes, the cybersecurity, risk and regulatory principal at PwC.
Menkes’ military career started with the U.S. Air Force Academy. After graduating, she was commissioned as an information systems configuration manager for the Office of Special Investigations, which investigated federal crimes, including those involving computer systems.
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After completing her commission, she moved to the private sector hoping to find employment in the field of cybersecurity, believing it was a natural extension of her military experience. The people at PwC must have felt the same way. Menkes has now been with PwC for more than 21 years.
Menkes believes her military background plays a significant role in her current job. She also is active in smoothing the path for veterans to enter into the cybersecurity field. To that end, Menkes agreed to an email interview.
Michael Kassner: Why are so many cybersecurity practitioners veterans?
Sloane Menkes: Today, cybersecurity has become part of the existential threat to our homeland, and it is not going away anytime soon. While my career has changed from the Air Force to a cybersecurity position in the private sector, that has not altered my mission of protecting personnel and property. Other veterans have similar experiences, with private-sector organizations consistently recognizing the benefits of the veterans’ military backgrounds.
Many join the military because of a desire to serve their country, and the armed forces offer a clear mission in protecting people and communities. For veterans transitioning out of the military, cybersecurity careers are of interest because they offer a similar mission.
Michael Kassner: Why hire a veteran?
Sloane Menkes: Veterans take with them the skills and experiences they developed while in the military, skills readily transferable to civilian organizations. Also, the cybersecurity field allows them to bring their passion for helping others into a private-sector setting.
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Teamwork and leadership serve as a natural part of the military experience. This differentiates them from those who have not served in the armed forces. Every veteran understands that leadership happens at all levels and will continue developing this skill throughout their civilian career in cybersecurity.
Michael Kassner: What support do veterans require as they transition out of the military?
Sloane Menkes: For me, informal coaching gave me the connections I needed to understand things I may have already learned in the military and put them into a business context. It also afforded me an easy way to ask questions of someone already skilled in the workings of a private-sector business. This was a definite help when I transitioned from active service to a veteran and cybersecurity professional at PwC.
Helping veterans transition to civilian workplaces
Besides her personal experience, Menkes offered the following tips private-sector organizations can employ to help veterans transition into civilian life:
- Employer recognition: Employers need to understand the skills that veterans have and the sense of purpose that drives them, and help veterans understand their skills are transferable to the private sector, which in turn offers a sense of purpose in defending others from cyber threats.
- Veterans are familiar with continuing education: As technology develops, the cybersecurity sector understands the need to prioritize training for their entire workforce. Offering certified training for newly hired veterans allows them to develop and be placed in positions for growth within corporate settings.
- Formalize mentoring opportunities: To facilitate integration into private-sector cybersecurity roles, organizations should establish mentoring programs that foster personal relationships, career growth, and most importantly, loyal employees.
For example, military career paths are fairly rigid, allowing servicemen and women to understand every step along the way. Once they become veterans, mentoring will help them get out of that mindset, become flexible and have the liberty to continue learning new skills within the cybersecurity field. This allows veterans to gain clarity and achieve their desired career paths.
It’s no secret that cybersecurity experts are in high demand. Menkes is convinced that veterans are uniquely positioned to help fill the gap. She dedicates a large portion of her time to mentoring other veterans within PwC and across the cybersecurity sector.