jim-mcjunkin-soldiers-salute-american-flagAs the number and complexity of cyber-attacks continue to escalate, companies are scrambling to find cyber professionals with sufficient skills to help protect their organizations and intellectual assets.

For its part, ISACA predicts a global shortage of two million cyber security professionals by 2019.

To help address the resource shortage, a growing number of organizations are actively recruiting military veterans and law enforcement officials. Their understanding and background with active defense, understanding the enemy’s mindset, and analytical aptitude represent some of their core skills. But their attractiveness doesn’t stop there.

“I consider veterans and law enforcement professionals as top recruits for information and cyber security roles for a variety of reasons,” said James McJunkin, VP, Enterprise Threat and Intelligence Management & CISO, Discover Financial Services. “With a veteran or law enforcement professional, you’re typically hiring a person who is mission-oriented, reliably accountable, and has experience working on a mission that is bigger than themselves. This inner sense of self and motivation to accomplish great work is an attractive trait.”

It's also worth noting that while veterans and law enforcement officials are often engaged in the same cyber security training as their private sector counterparts, their training typically extends beyond that which is offered to cyber professionals in the private sector.

“Specialized training offers highly valuable skills that are difficult to find elsewhere, ranging from intelligence analysis to complex technical proficiencies,” notes McJunkin.

McJunkin also points to how veterans and law enforcement professionals make good candidates based on their ability to operate in stressful situations. “They tend to be very adaptable – meaning, they can transition from being a supporting team player to the decision-maker, depending on what’s needed in any given situation,” said McJunkin. “This flexibility – supported by their broad skill set – makes them ideal recruits for information/cyber security positions.”

Potential roles

Veterans and law enforcement professionals are often already “security conscious,” which is not necessarily true for individuals who come from corporate or academic backgrounds.

“While there are a variety of cyber roles that may be suitable, many veterans and law enforcement professionals could also be extremely valuable in incident response and threat intelligence roles where the situation may require rapid decision-making in highly stressful situations,” said McJunkin. But they’re certainly not restricted to such roles. “I would say, regardless of the specific field they work in now, their personal discipline combined with leadership training allows them to succeed in a variety of information/cyber security roles,” said McJunkin.

“In addition to being security conscious, veterans and law enforcement professionals may also possess international experience where they have worked successfully alongside individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures,” notes McJunkin.

“For example, a 26-year-old military veteran may have lead as many as 40 troops, conducted negotiations with foreign governments and military officials, and handled the logistical requirements for their entire organization, potentially representing millions of dollars,” said McJunkin. “Another young veteran or law enforcement official may have years of experience working in the Intelligence Community, working with the NSA, CIA, or other ‘three-letter’ agencies, producing intelligence that is used by national-level decision-makers.” 

McJunkin has hired numerous veterans and law enforcement officials in the Enterprise Threat & Intelligence Management Department at Discover, with more than half of them currently in leadership/management roles. “I believe this demonstrates that they are highly-valued members of our workforce,” said McJunkin. “Of course, we’re always looking for talented individuals to join our team and plan to continue our recruitment directed at veterans and law enforcement professionals.”