By Rob Rashotte

Rob Rashotte, Vice President, Global Training & Technical Field Enablement at Fortinet

It’s been almost a year since the world changed. With each passing month, it becomes clear just how significant that change really was for IT teams.

A global report we released in 2020 found that nearly two-thirds of organizations transitioned more than half their people to remote work in the wake of the first COVID-19 lockdowns – practically overnight. No surprise there. What’s noteworthy it that 83 per cent of them found this task to be moderately to severely challenging. This was especially true when it came to enabling secure connectivity, ensuring business continuity and keeping business-critical applications running smoothly.

Meanwhile, in another 2020 report, 89 percent of Canadian IT managers agreed that the cybersecurity skills shortage that has plagued our industry for years has created additional cyber risks for their organizations. Canada, like most other places in the world, continues to face a chronic shortage of skilled security talent, making hiring a difficult proposition. Demand was already high before March, but the onset of COVID-19 has made the demand for these skills even more urgent. Add to that the reality of the billions of threat items now being tracked each day, according to FortiGuard Labs, and it’s clear we face a big challenge.

Given this, and the fact that many organizations expect more than half of their employees to continue working remotely full-time after the pandemic, one fact is clear. We need to attract more people to the cybersecurity profession, and there’s no better place to start than with existing IT teams. Let’s review the reasons why anyone who has considered leveraging their technical and network skills and making the leap to security should make this the year they take action.

First is training. The thought of “going back to school” may be of concern to some. The good news is that there are more easy training options available now than ever before, and Fortinet has taken a leadership role here. By extending access to our NSE free cybersecurity training courses, Fortinet is creating more career pathways for anyone wanting to advance their security knowledge or start a career in cybersecurity. The training initiative provides learners with more than 30 courses on topics such as secure SD-WAN and cloud security, with more courses expected to be added throughout the year. Learners can also use these courses to prepare themselves for Fortinet NSE Certification. We even offer the opportunity to earn continuing professional credits through a partnership with (ISC) 2.

Next, it’s worth considering the ways that cybersecurity expertise – especially in this critical moment for organizations around the world – can put IT professionals at the forefront of addressing one of the biggest threats of our time. Many businesses have come to view security policies as “restriction” that blocks the path to their more ambitious digital transformation goals. Nothing could be further from the truth. Looking back at the world 10 months since the pandemic went global, we can see that organizations that have prioritized secure digital innovation and business continuity have been better positioned to adjust to new realities and shifting consumer habits. Viewed in this light, cybersecurity can be seen for what it is – a mechanism for ensuring innovation in a way that doesn’t also introduce risks that could compromise the entire enterprise. It takes a long-term, holistic view.

Even if a career shift is not in the cards, adding more skills to your tool belt is well worth the effort. I find that people who enter this field are by nature eager to learn and are likely to seek out additional training opportunities wherever they can be found. The challenges of maintaining a large remote workforce – a badly needed skill that’s not going anywhere anytime soon – requires a security-first mindset. IT workers who are attuned to risk and vulnerabilities will have a leg up in the months and years ahead.

The cybersecurity skills gap has gone on long enough. The world needs people like you. Take time now to learn more about the field, and open up a new and exciting career path.

Rob Rashotte is vice president of global training and technical field enablement at Fortinet.

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