If you’re starting a job that wasn’t intended to be remote. You likely won’t get to meet your managers and colleagues face-to-face.
Courtesy of BigStock.com
Starting a new cybersecurity job will undoubtedly come with a few curveballs, especially in 2021 – and especially if you’re starting a job that wasn’t intended to be remote. You likely won’t get to meet your managers and colleagues face-to-face, at least not for the foreseeable future. And watercooler chit-chat? Forget about it. Starting a new job looks different during a global pandemic.
As someone who has worked in engineering, security and information technology for the last 10 years, I’ve picked up a thing or two about starting out on the right foot in a new cybersecurity position; however, the pandemic has encouraged me to re-evaluate how employees should kickstart new cybersecurity positions. Here are eight tips for nailing the first 90 days in your new cybersecurity role in a remote work environment:Courtesy of BigStock.com
Tip #1: Request a mentor
Now that we’re all completely virtual, finding someone to connect with is boundless. Ask your supervisor to connect you with a colleague who would be open to serving as a go-to resource on your path to cyber-success. Grab virtual coffee with your mentor every few weeks, and don’t be afraid to pick their brain about your new company and role. Seek out their expertise and ask them for help/advice when needed.
As I’ve progressed in my career in penetration testing specifically, I’ve realized more and more the critical role mentorship plays in career longevity. Mentors have been vital for moving my career forward. They’re invaluable during every stage of a person’s career, and they’re especially important when you’re starting a new job.
Tip #2: Get to know your team
This task is more difficult in our new remote work world, but it’s more crucial than ever as we remain physically distant. Schedule a series of one-on-ones to get to know the people you’ll be working with, and ask your colleagues for insider tips, tricks and resources. During your first few months, connect with as many of your new colleagues as you can to build rapport and put faces to names.
Connecting with new people on a personal level can be challenging or perhaps feel awkward at first in a remote world. Keep conversations casual and light. Listen attentively and let your authentic personality come through.
Tip #3: Talk about communication preferences
How does your new team communicate? Do they prefer email or text? Instant messaging or video call? Ask them their preferences and tell them yours. Accessibility and communication are huge ingredients for successful onboarding, especially in a remote work environment. These may seem like silly or unnecessary questions to ask, but this communication practice can go a long way (and save you headaches down the line!) as you get ramped up during your first 90 days.
Tip #4: Take a step back
Your first 90 days are likely going to be jam-packed with virtual meetings and HR training sessions as you get up to speed. In between meetings, be sure to budget time for a little self-reflection.
Where do you want to be in six months? A year? As you ramp up at your new cybersecurity gig, make time to build out a career plan, if you haven’t already. Set continuous and realistic goals. Budget in time to reassess your professional goals, and work with your new manager to map out achievable steps you can take to make progress toward them.
For example, last year, my goal was to jump head-first into cloud applications. But recently, my goal has been to learn more about web applications. It’s essential to keep learning and creating tiny milestones to keep moving forward, especially in the rapidly evolving security industry.
Tip #5: Check your bias at the front door
Whatever preconceived notions or speculations you have about your new cybersecurity gig, throw them out the window. This is a new chapter. A blank slate, and an opportunity for a fresh start.
Leave any fears in the rear-view mirror, and dive into your new job with full force. Remember: if you don’t stay out of your comfort zone, you won’t be able to grow. A world of exciting opportunities awaits!
Tip #6: Go for a walk
Sounds random, right?
Many cybersecurity professionals are at their desks on their computers all day: researching, scanning, pentesting and reporting. Especially when you’re starting a new job remotely, it can be easy to rack up 10+ hour days and forget to build in breaks throughout the day. Set reasonable boundaries to separate your work life from your personal life. Set limits on your screen time. Get up, put a mask on and go for a walk!
When I’m not pentesting or leading projects for my teams, I actually manage a small farm in Seattle. It’s done wonders for my work-life balance. I’m a penetration-testing-guru by trade and an amateur alpaca farmer in my spare time! When I get away from my computer and am one with nature, it’s rejuvenating.
Tip #7: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and learn from them
None of us are perfect. As you learn the ropes of your new job, you’re undoubtedly going to make a few mistakes along the way. Remember, falling forward is still a step in the right direction.
Look at mishaps as learning experiences, and opportunities for professional improvement and growth. Use your first 90 days to learn as much as you can, and jot down important notes and reminders so you have them handy to reference down the road.
Tip #8: Be flexible and forgiving
The onboarding process is complicated enough under normal circumstances, without the added complications of COVID-19. It might be stressful hitting the ground running your first several weeks, so remember: being nimble is key.
Acknowledge that there will be a learning curve, and cut yourself some slack if it feels like you’re taking a while to get assimilated. Rest assured: you’re doing great, and you’ll get where you want to be in your cybersecurity career in no time!
About the Author: Jon Helmus, Manager of Pentest Community at Cobalt.io, is an engineer and educator who has been working in engineering, security and information technology for over 10 years. Jon’s specializations include penetration testing, threat and adversarial assessments, vulnerability management and cloud technology (AWS).
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