Soft Skills Matter in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity, as a field, has never been hotter.

Photo by Adrien Olichon on Unsplash

Driven by advances in computing, data protection guidelines and with the ever-increasing will, resolve and resources of bad actors, organizations continue to expend significant resources to attract and retain top-notch information security employees. Cybersecurity remains at the top of the IT skills list, and it has shown no signs of dropping. This directly correlates with, and facilitates a field that is highly attractive to candidates — whether old or new to the field. In the quest to acquire as much technical skills as possible and in order to land the better jobs, employees and candidates tend to overlook the oh-so-important soft skills that can help facilitate a rewarding career.

A team of three workers collaborating on a common laptop
A team of three workers collaborating on a common laptop
Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

We can think of soft skills as the driver or the vehicle with which the employee can effectively perform their core duties requiring the application of hard skills. Soft skills enable employees to work in an environment of collaboration, where they are able to work effectively and efficiently. Employees can grow their personal network by leveraging their soft skills to facilitate career advancement. In addition, proving initiative in the workplace and developing leadership skills can have a positive impact on the employee’s confidence and lead to higher job satisfaction levels. These benefits are not restricted to employees. Organizations that enable an environment where such skills are celebrated and facilitated can expect to reap benefits from a more engaged workforce and higher employee retention rates.

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

The stereotypical image of the information technology worker would be one of the geeky, nerdy and socially awkward male employee; you know, the one who remains buried in computers all day, declines requests to socialize, does not speak up in meetings and is painfully introverted.

Image of a non-human funny character against the backdrop of a computer screen with code
Image of a non-human funny character against the backdrop of a computer screen with code
Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash

However, this clichéd view is outdated. The barriers of entry into Cybersecurity have been lowered as emphasis on college education has been supplanted by an emphasis on technical skills. In addition, the field now attracts more women than ever before, in addition to increasing the diversity in age, background and exposure. In other words, employers are interested in those who can do the job, and do it well, regardless of most other factors like college major and GPA.

To address requirements for these hard skills, employees have the options of pursuing certifications to demonstrate their competence to potential employers or to improve on their job performance. However, soft skills (while lacking tangible and effective measuring criteria) are no less important in helping an employee put forward their best professional foot. Skills such as effective communication, learning how to be a lifelong learner and presentation skills are important for any employee, but we will focus on some soft skills all Cybersecurity employees should have and develop.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

These important soft skills include:

  • Analytical reasoning
  • Communication
  • Passion for learning
  • Collaboration/team-work
  • Self-drive
  • Research
  • Critical thinking
  • Attention to details
  • Organization
  • Presentation
  • Curiosity and creativity
  • Negotiation
  • Adaptability
  • Time management
  • Writing
  • Networking
  • Empathy
  • Self-discipline and perseverance
Photo by John Lockwood on Unsplash

Cybersecurity workers are lifelong learners, who may need to develop and adopt defensive and offensive mindsets in the course of their careers. They may need to break down complex technical terms for the understanding of non-technical colleagues, or for management. Yes, the technical know-how is important, but it is no longer enough to do the job and advance an information security career. While hard skills may be easier to measure and quantify in an organizational context, soft skills are the enablers of the effective delivery of hard skills and should be equally, if not more, celebrated.

In my next piece, I will discuss the intersection of hard and soft skills in the IT security workplace and how employees can develop these skills.

My path to a Cybersecurity career took me through the fields of biology and finance. I have interest in all three fields, and I write accordingly.