UK vet gains the cybersecurity know-how he needed

UK vet gains the cybersecurity know-how he needed

Ivor Cook learned plenty about security while serving in the British Army. But when he left the service, he needed to expand his expertise.


What we did

I left school at 18 and went to work in London, while also joining the Army Reserves for a taste of adventure. When the British Army required extra personnel, I volunteered to join the Regular Army for a year.

That one year turned into 20. It was a journey of challenge and discovery. It was also a total privilege, through good and bad.

When the time came to hang up my uniform, I had a hard time picturing my next adventure. I had training and experience in security, plus the leadership and management skills that came with being a warrant officer. I wanted to pursue a security-related career in the private sector, but I faced an industry that evolves rapidly, especially cybersecurity.

The speed of change also means security efforts are constantly trying to adapt. It can be challenging to keep up. I was able to forge a career in other aspects of security, ones that covered personnel, information, and physical security. For a while at least, I could put cybersecurity in the “too difficult” category and focus on what was in my comfort zone, which was dealing with people and things.

But with cybersecurity becoming a growing part of everyone’s daily life, I realized that I if I didn’t gain a solid grasp of it, my career options would be limited. I found that a significant number of companies see the cyberthreat as first and foremost, with some using that label to define all other security threats. They can lose sight of broader security concerns and how to manage them. With my background I had something to offer professionally, but by learning more and finding a role in cybersecurity, I could become a more versatile and relevant security professional.

I came across a U.K. organization called Salute My Job, which collaborates with IBM to offer training and employment help for veterans — including introductory courses on cybersecurity.

IBM staff have devised free, credentialed programs in the United Kingdom -- similar to the ones it offers veterans in the United States. I did a five-day course on QRadar, an IBM product that detects threats to IT systems. It was transformational for me, adding to my expertise the piece that I needed. I not only learned about QRadar, but also about threat intelligence — which allows one to prevent or mitigate cyberattacks — and security operations in the cyber domain.

Through Salute My Job, I applied to IBM because I valued their elegant solutions and wanted to be part of that. I now work at IBM as a security consultant, assessing risks and reducing their threat.

The journey I made is one that’s facing the security industry as a whole. Do you take a security professional like me and train them in cybersecurity? Or do you take a technology expert and train them in security? But making sure cybersecurity stands at the forefront is part of my job now, and one that IBM tools and consulting services are helping the industry with. Both the course and the access to IBMers gave me the confidence to pursue my new career. I have found a new life in it, applying my experience and training to benefit IBM. What I get in return is the opportunity to learn and grow anew in the security profession that I enjoy.

Image provided by one of our partners, Corsham Institute.