It seems like everyone wants to get into the field of cyber security. Regarding this, having a mentor is important for your cyber career. A mentor is known to be knowledgeable in the field, will guide you along your path providing direction from what they have learned and motivate you throughout your career. When I set out on this path, I recognized that having a mentor would benefit my career. Within this article I will discuss the roles of both mentees and mentors, and what each should provide to make the relationship successful for both.
What a mentor looks for in mentees
1. Avid interest in InfoSec. Mentees should research the various cybersecurity career options. Cybersecurity is a wide area, so the mentee should understand what area of cyber intrigues them most (for instance, red team, blue team or a mix of both).
2. Readiness and willingness to learn – The mentee must continue to discover and learn with continuing education in the form of a degree, certification, or self-teaching. The mentee must be prepared to do the hard work, as mentors want motivated mentees willing to roll up their sleeves and dive in.
3. Willingness to take a risk – Risk taking is important for a mentee as well - this could be starting off in a position you are not familiar with, moving out of state or commuting a longer distance for a position.
4. A confident attitude – Bring a positive attitude! It will show the mentor that your serious and ready to receive the information given.
Overall the mentee’s main role in the relationship is accepting guidance from someone who is knowledgeable and experienced. The mentee needs to look for and target a mentor who is a good fit for them. Concerning this, a mentee should also not be afraid to ask for advice. Once advice is given by the mentor, it is incumbent on the mentee to follow up, do the advised research and “do their homework”.
Finding a mentor
A cyber professional should seek out these characteristics for a mentor: someone who is willing to share knowledge, skills, and experience and demonstrates a positive attitude. They should be willing to respond quickly to a potential mentee’s questions, and provide straightforward advice. It needs to be a win-win relationship, where the mentor also gains value from the “fresh eyes” of the mentee.
What a mentor should provide
1. Help for you to grow your network - Once a cyber professional finds a mentor, the mentor needs to help the mentee extend their professional network. A mentor with lots of valuable connections they are willing to share will greatly benefit the mentee.
2. Help bridging the gap between past experience and a transition into cybersecurity - Most people that are interested in this field have a hard time linking their past experience into cybersecurity. System administration skills are a good example. Skills learned there as an admin are quite valuable in InfoSec. The mentor needs to assist the mentee to change their mindset to best highlight and leverage past experience to land a cybersecurity job.
3. Assist and enable mentee career growth. Once a cyber professional finds a mentor, often the mentor can assist with exam vouchers, training materials, volunteer opportunities for free
admission to InfoSec conferences, free training sessions etc. to enhance the mentee’s career.
Overall the mentor’s main role is to provide guidance for the mentee. The mentor should motivate, encourage and change the mentee’s mindset to think cybersecurity throughout their whole career. From my experience, having a mentor has helped me advance my career. Now I can provide advice to up-and-coming cyber professionals.