Defenders wanted—building the new cybersecurity professionals

As part of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we published a special blog post earlier this week featuring real-world experiences shared by cybersecurity professionals: people with diverse backgrounds in law, academia, software development, and other seemingly unrelated fields. This topic is near and dear to my heart because I truly believe that diversity—people with diverse skills, backgrounds, cultures, and life experiences—is the key element for making the next generation of cybersecurity professionals even more effective.

Today’s world is connected in ways we could only imagine 20 years ago. Digital transformation means the workplace, classrooms, retail outlets, and more are now easily accessed from your car, a backyard hammock, or a jet cruising at 30,000 feet. And with expanding connectivity and the potential for cybercrime to do physical harm, there’s a growing need for people with the skills and drive to keep us safe. As we near the end of this important month, I want to share a little more about how Microsoft is helping to cultivate the next generation of cyber defenders, and talk about some of the work we’re doing to make cybersecurity more inclusive—so that we’re truly creating security for all.

Cybersecurity needs you

There’s a widening gap between the need for secure connectivity and the number of security professionals who can help make it happen. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, cybersecurity job opportunities will grow 33 percent from 2020 to 2030—more than six times the national average (with an average salary of USD 104,000).1 However, the number of people entering the field isn’t keeping pace. According to the 2020 (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study, there’s a global talent shortfall between 1.5 million and 3.5 million.2

As the threat landscape continues to evolve with more sophisticated ransomware attacks,3 the world is calling out for a new breed of cybersecurity professionals—defenders who will help make the world secure for everyone. To get there, cybersecurity needs people with diverse backgrounds—business, law enforcement, the military, science, liberal arts, marketing design, and an array of other fields. We know that attackers prey on biases within security teams—so, without diverse perspectives, it’s easier for threat actors to exploit blind spots. In fact, studies have found that diverse teams make better decisions 87 percent of the time.4

“I was told to switch from software development to security. I was told I would make more money, the job security would be great, and I would always get to learn lots of new things. They were right!”—Tanya Janca Founder and Chief Executive Officer, We Hack Purple Academy.

A superpower isn’t always about x-ray vision or super strength. Maybe yours is organization or team leadership. Or perhaps it’s the empathy and communication skills that are invaluable for organizational success. Whatever your superpower may be, there’s a need for it in the cybersecurity field. Microsoft is actively reaching out to students, veterans, people re-entering the workforce, and anyone with an interest in being part of this vital segment of the 21st-century workforce. Security is a team sport, and we’re all in this together.

Building the next generation of defenders

To help higher-education students explore cybersecurity career paths, the Microsoft Student Summit (S2) held October 18 to 20, 2021, provided training for Microsoft security technologies, along with career guidance and support for cybersecurity certifications. To learn more, students and aspiring defenders are always welcome to visit the Microsoft Security Technical Content Library, where new learning paths and courses are added regularly. Students can also register at Microsoft Learn, which includes training on many different technologies, including security.

Group of young adults wearing backpacks sit on bleachers surrounding laptop.

Security for all requires gender equity

Studies have found that gender-diverse teams make better business decisions 73 percent of the time.5 However, women currently represent only 24 percent of the cybersecurity workforce. Whether your field of interest is business, healthcare, retail, law, or a STEM field, cybersecurity can be a rewarding pathway to every sector. That’s why Microsoft has teamed up with Girl Security, which is pioneering new approaches to building a cybersecurity workforce that reflects the nation, communities, and people it’s working to secure. Through an open-source curriculum designed to support adolescent girls, women, and gender minorities, Microsoft Security and Girl Security are working to demystify cybersecurity by highlighting visible role models and inspiring these populations toward cybersecurity’s mission and in-demand skills.

“Everyone has some unique contribution to make in life and to cybersecurity. Don’t doubt your strengths and contributions, which may very well be potential pathways.”—Lauren Bean Buitta, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Girl Security.

Staying ahead with security skilling

To help cybersecurity professionals advance their careers and stay ahead in this evolving threat landscape, Microsoft also supports ongoing upskilling—including four new Security, Compliance, and Identity (SCI) certifications tailored to specific roles and needs:

And just today we announced a new security program for nonprofits, which provides streamlined security training for IT professionals working in the nonprofit sector. It also helps enhance organizational security by enabling proactive monitoring against nation-state attacks.

Training and certification webinars

Microsoft is proud to be partnering with Learning Tree International, United Training, and Global Knowledge to present three timely webinars focused on cloud security training:

  • Global Knowledge is offering a Microsoft SCI training webinar covering the complete portfolio of associate certifications—including specializations, hands-on experience, and practice requirements—on October 21, 2021, at 9:00 AM PST. Register now.
  • Learning Tree International launched its Women in Technology series with a Microsoft SCI certification webinar to help navigate the four Microsoft Security tracks and sharpen your skills for your current role (or the job you’re aiming for). Watch Learning Tree International’s webinar on-demand.
  • Hybrid work has accelerated cloud adoption for video conferencing and other remote collaboration tools. But with increased adoption comes increased risk. In partnership with Microsoft Principal Cloud Architect, Kailash Sawant, United Training produced a webinar examining cybersecurity in the cloud, focusing on steps you can take to secure your cloud environment. Watch United Training’s webinar on-demand.

Learn more

Be sure to visit the Microsoft Cybersecurity Awareness Month homepage to learn about cybersecurity training and download the 2021 Microsoft Digital Defense Report to get a critical perspective on today’s cybersecurity landscape from experts across 77 countries.

To learn more about Microsoft Security solutions, visit our website. Bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters. Also, follow us at @MSFTSecurity for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.

1Information Security Analysts, US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 8 September 2021.

2Cybersecurity Talent Crunch To Create 3.5 Million Unfilled Jobs Globally By 2021, Steve Morgan, Cybercrime Magazine. 24 October 2019.

3What’s Driving the Surge in Ransomware Attacks? Matt Stieb, Intelligencer. 7 September 2021.

4New Research: Diversity + Inclusion = Better Decision Making At Work, Erik Larson, Forbes. 21 September 2017.

5New Research: Diversity + Inclusion = Better Decision Making At Work, Erik Larson, Forbes. 21 September 2017.