The Most Important Skills For Cybersecurity Professionals

Cybersecurity is booming and everyone wants a piece. If you work in the field like I do, you probably often get asked by friends and family, how to get started. You might mention some certs that someone should get. Others suggest building a lab is the best way. This isn’t bad advice and doing those things would be a good start. But we do a huge disservice to people if we allow them to think that getting some certs and building a lab, is enough to be successful in cybersecurity.

Don’t get me wrong, technical knowledge is important. But, as someone who has trained over 200 SOC analysts, people who appeared very “technical” were not necessarily the most successful. The amount of certifications or degrees obtained by an analyst alone did not predict how well they would perform.  I have seen analysts with Master degrees fired and people with a number of certs very frustrated because of their low performance. What do these analysts who struggle lack? While you can find much advice about what technical skills are required, there is little discussion about cognitive abilities.

These are attributes that are much harder to identify, and even harder to teach. They are the skills that are not obvious based on any particular cert but in my experience, have been the main predictor for success for any given analyst. The three most essential skills for every cybersecurity professional are:

  1. Problem-solving
  2. Self-learner
  3. Communication

In my observations, analysts who were very proficient in these areas were the most successful. The opposite is also very true. Analysts who were weak in these areas performed very poorly and were often very frustrated in their role. But how exactly do we define these skills and how do we identify them? I hope to unpack these ideas in later posts. Of course there are other attributes that are also important that could be mentioned.  These are not meant to be the only  skills that we should care about. For now, I wanted to highlight specific cognitive requirements for work in this field which are given little attention.

So the next time you give advice about getting started in cybersecutiy, don’t just mention the technical side. And if you are looking to get into this field, in addition to all the certs you plan on getting, make sure you don’t lack these cognitive abilities.