How young upstarts can get their big security break

When hiring IT security experts, companies want years of experience. Here are five tips to help young graduates break into the security industry.

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Companies have either suffered a data security breach or live in fear of one. So when they're hiring new IT security personnel, they want years of experience. If you're fresh out of college, that's a problem.

Another problem is that security practitioners are control freaks by nature. They have to be, if you stop and think about it. They have a huge responsibility, and delegating some of the work to younger pups is a lot to expect.

But here's the problem: The future of information security is in the hands of the youth. That may seem a cliched statement; so obvious it sounds stupid. But it's a fact.

This column isn't an invitation for young upstarts to cry and lament about the disadvantages they have. Instead, it's about a few things you can do to break through and make it in the industry. Think of it as suggestions for becoming a security rock star, which you almost have to be to make a difference these days.

This morning I'm at Security B-Sides Boston, listening to a talk from someone who is fighting this battle right now. Joseph Sokoly, a security analyst at NetBoundary, recently gave a talk at the Austin, Texas B-Sides event about the troubles of being young in the security industry. This time, he's in Boston giving an update on where his career trajectory has taken him in the weeks since then.

He has found that breaking into the security community is not nearly as hard as it first seemed. In fact, his career got a big boost simply because he had the guts to stand up in front of people and give his talk. "Giving the talk in Austin helped me tremendously," Sokoly said. "It has opened doors. My being here is a result of that. First, the positive reaction from the community encouraged me not just to listen but to speak again."

His Austin talk has also inspired security heavyweights like Chris Hoff and James Arlen to look at establishing a mentor programme to coincide with this summer's B-Sides Las Vegas event.

"Being proactive works. Put yourself out there and things will open up, but speaking doesn't have to be it. Use Twitter. Start blogging," Sokoly said. He's absolutely right.

His suggestion young security practitioners speak up and force others to take notice isn't a new concept. But it's advice that too few people take.

Instead, prospective employees try to let their raw technical ability do the talking. They get so bogged down on the technical that they ignore the cultural. It's unfair to be frozen out, especially if you're skills are well above someone who gets the job simply because they've been kicking around as employed security practitioners for five or more years. In other words, because they've simply managed to survive.

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