Cyber Insiders Mini: Rob Black on Combatting the Cyber Skills Gap
Rob Black is a cybersecurity professional whose areas of expertise include cyber deception, threat analysis, counterterrorism, cyber resilience and cyber warfare with a background that includes changing pirates to influencing world leaders.
At present Rob is the director the Director of the UK Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge, a cross-discipline cybersecurity student competition designed to give the next generation of cybersecurity professionals a unique opportunity to experience the world of cybersecurity.
In this episode of Cyber Insiders, we talk to Rob about the ways we can start to address the digital skills shortage, drive diversity within the industry and how experiential learning activities can help open the world of cyber to a wider talent pool.
Rob has certainly had a colourful and fascinating career in cybersecurity, but his background and route into the industry was not typical, which is one of the reasons he’s an advocate of reconsidering and rethinking what a cyber professional looks like and what skill sets employers should be seeking.
Rob joined the MoD at a time of change, the evolution of the international society was such that the department was facing numerous new problems, probably for the first time ever a lot of them were digital.
“My contribution was bringing in different disciplines and different backgrounds to deal with the problem at hand for individuals in the MoD who weren’t necessarily experts in those fields but were experts in warfighting or a traditional military path, who were now having to grapple with very different problems with solutions that might not necessarily fall within the traditional remit that they were expecting.”
Now, as the threat landscape continues to become more complex, there is an even greater need for a multiple discipline approach to security that brings together different perspectives and abilities. As newer and more sophisticated threats continue to multiply at an alarming rate, a holistic approach is required to deal with the situation, according to Rob.
While technical ability is an important aspect of cybersecurity, Rob stresses that critical thinking and other cognitive skills are also vital to the mission and contribute value outside the traditional format. The traditional, and possibly outdated, perception of what a cyber professional looks like is problematic and can deter people from entering the industry because they believe that lack of technical ability is a career barrier.
“You see a lot of job descriptions being quite lazy and just rehashing ‘we need X qualification or Y qualification’ rather than thinking more holistically about the mindset and approach needed to deal with the problems at hand”.
As Director of the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge, Rob has seen first-hand how diversity in cybersecurity can be addressed by reaching out to communities in university fields and explaining how people from non-technical backgrounds can contribute to cybersecurity and highlighting different areas of interest within the industry.
“Not only are we seeing diversity, but we’re also seeing really effective individuals, who will go on and have a significant contribution in cybersecurity whether it be in the UK or internationally, coming through the programme having never thought about a career in cyber before because they fall out the scope of the traditional outreach efforts to the technical skills or the STEM skill sets.”
“We need to revisit out assumptions as to what skillsets we want and what we need…for me it’s about evolving on our skill set in terms of who we’re asking and what we’re asking for”.
To learn more about how we can address the digital skills gap and create diversity in the cybersecurity industry by default listen to the full podcast here.