Rethinking security talent in the wake of the “Great Resignation”



  • Cyber security is a field that has long suffered from a tight labor market because barriers to entry discourage candidates with non-traditional backgrounds
  • HPE has launched the Cyber Security Career Reboot apprenticeship program that is specifically designed to attract candidates without college degrees or experience- the two main barriers to entry into the field

HPE’s innovative new approach to cultivating new cyber security talent

The world may well remember 2021 for the “Great Resignation,” the year employees quit jobs in nearly every industry in record numbers amidst a prolonged pandemic. It’s a seller’s labor market right now, and aggressive efforts to lure and retain talent will likely continue well through this year and perhaps beyond. Employers and fields experiencing attrition or labor shortages have been wielding an assortment of recruiting tactics to refresh their ranks, while retention efforts vie to bolster overworked teams. I’ve read articles about all sorts of strategies, from empathy-driven retention programs to ramping up automation and efficiency so we can do more with less. Sounds good, I wholeheartedly agree.

And here’s another idea: Create talent. Hire the person working in construction who is looking for a change. Hire the person who can’t find a job because they have a criminal record. Hire the parent who’s been at home raising children. Let’s re-examine how we define candidates, seek them out in places we don’t typically look, and build talent from the ground up.

In the security business, we’re no strangers to shortages. The cyber field in particular has grappled with a talent gap since cybersecurity became a thing. Many of us discovered (not chose) our career path outside the college-to-corporation pipeline, particularly while serving in the military. I joined the U.S. Army at age 17 because, quite frankly, I had few other good options. I was sent to Korea and assigned the task of scanning and labelling floppy disks with classification stickers. It was a mundane job, but it turned out to be an opportunity. I then leveraged my experience to land an assignment spinning up the Pentagon’s fledgling Computer Incident Response Team, as it was called then. That led to a career in the private sector, and my position today as Chief Security Officer for a global Fortune 500 tech company.

Many cyber security professionals have similar stories. That’s why at HPE, we’re re-imagining the potential security professional. In addition to our traditional recruiting efforts and early-career training programs, we’ve launched a Cyber Security Career Reboot program targeting those re-entering the workforce or looking for a different career path with greater earning potential. If we can tap into this overlooked and under-utilized pool, I believe we can build a stronger, truly diverse team while gifting life-changing opportunities to those who may otherwise never have one.

Caregivers, the recently incarcerated, those recovering from injuries or illness, and those working hourly or part time positions all offer a wealth of life experience and the potential to learn something new. The only real “requirements” holding them back are the ones they don’t need to have: a college degree or experience in security.

In our new program participants will be trained and given assignments that will build their resume. Some may go on to have a successful careers in security, others may move on to other things. But we’re going to give them a chance.

We can’t just keep taking talent from one another. At some point, we have to create talent to grow our ranks as a whole. In other words, let’s change the conversation from taking talent to making talent. Intern and early-career programs are part of the answer. But to fill the gaps and build a robust talent pool, we also need to find raw talent and recruit folks who don’t fit neatly into our current picture of who a security professional should be. And if we change some lives in the meantime, all the better.


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