Addressing the cyber security skills gap

At SMJ Consulting Services, we believe there is a net gain for employers to attract and recruit ex-military personal to fill in-demand cyber security roles within their organisation. The growing demand for skilled people within this sector highlights why the cyber security industry needs military skills more than ever. Global demand for cyber security experts is forecast to outstrip supply by a third before the end of the decade. Not only can this talented pool help plug skills gaps in the industry - but their unique and transferable skills would be a great asset to any organisation.

Transferable Military Skills

Ex-military cyber experts have extensive experience in protecting multiple assets, both in the UK and in hostile environments, and as a result they have developed a deep seated security mentality.  And for those who may not have any cyber experience within their military role, it is their soft skills combined with their experience that has created the high demand for military veterans to join cyber and security business teams.

Whilst ex-military people may lack the education or certification of their civilian counterparts, their experience more than makes up for it.

Ex-military cyber hard skills

Military cyber experts are experienced in:

  • Networks.

  • Communication systems.

  • Cyber security.

  • Information security.

  • Information assurance.

  • Technical fields including intelligence, signals, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering.

  • Information security management.

  • Forensic investigation.

  • Use of ISO 27001.

General hard skills well-suited for cyber roles:

  • Report writing.

  • Risk Management.

  • Operations Management.

  • Crisis Management.

Ex-military cyber soft skills

It is the soft skills that have been drilled into military people that sets them apart from their civilian equivalents, such as:

  • Analytical and problem solving.

  • Security mentality

  • Ability to work under pressure.

  • Work ethic.

  • Teamwork and collaboration.

  • Leadership.

  • Management.

  • Strong communication skills

  • Prioritisation and time management.

  • Motivation.

  • Using initiative.

  • Self-starter.

Don’t just take our word for it! Here are a few quotes from employers we have interviewed about why veterans are obvious candidates to help address the cybersecurity skills gap.

Julian Meyrick head of IBM's Security Division in Europe:

“It makes great business sense to upskill and train veterans as they are a set of people with the soft skills that we know are difficult to interview for. With skills training and investment, we can get them ready to take on the roles we need to fill.”


Stuart Quick, Managing Consultant at IBM:

“From our perspective, the characteristics we look for when recruiting people to work for IBM generally fall into two areas. The first one is soft skills and the second is relevant skills and experience. We look for soft skills such as; team building, communication skills, problem solving, motivation, time management. All of which are skills and behaviours that ex-military people exhibit - and do very well. The second area we look at is around relevant skills and experience. Members of the Armed Forces are becoming more and more involved in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and so we are always keen to hear from people who have worked in, or maybe led, technical teams in the military. Technology plays a significant role in the military which leads to service personnel being exposed to networking, communication systems, cybersecurity, information security and the intelligence aspects associated with these areas. So clearly, if people in the Armed Forces have these skills already, then they are obvious candidates to help address the skills gap.”   

Simon Harris, co-founder of Cysec Resource Co (CRC):

Simon said he believes it is important to give job opportunities to ex-Service men and women as they have got “some significant transferable skills”. Simon explains: “I think they have a work ethic imbedded in them and they are very much used to working as part of a team, as well as a matrix team. And conversely, just look at the amount of money and effort that has been spent training them, to make them capable of working in a highly critical environment. Generally speaking, you find that ex-military people are people-people. They can communicate very well.”