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The Broadcast

5 Key Characteristics of Top Cyber Performers - Dispatches from the Shift5 Team

Kara Kramer, Senior Director, Shift5


The National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) Cyber Physical Summit on March 10-11, 2020, brought together thought leaders in the areas of securing cyber-physical systems and the challenges defense and commercial enterprises face in the near future.

Cybersecurity is a complex topic, and when we start to drill down into the complexities of securing a cyber-physical system, the pool of expertise narrows quickly.

At this summit, the Director for the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Ground Vehicle Systems Center (CCDC GVSC) Jeffrey Langhout spoke directly to that challenge, citing the critical need for talent in the cyber defense workforce. He leads a workforce of over 1,800 engineers, scientists, researchers, and support staff in delivering advanced technologies as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its cross-functional teams. Mr. Langhout pointed out that often, the strongest contributors to the cyber workforce do not have the “right” education, or even a college degree.

What are the characteristics of these top cyber performers if they aren’t all engineers with a computer science degree from a top university?

  • Tenacity: Solving hard cyber security challenges requires a tenacious approach to difficult problems.
  • Creativity: Thinking about problems in a different way generates innovation.
  • Life-long Learner: Top performers are always interested in picking up new facts or a new skill.
  • Thinking Like a Black Hat: Can they put themselves in the mental headspace of the attacker? Chances are if they can, they will be a phenomenal cyber defender.
  • Thrives Under Pressure: Some people do their best work under pressure, and never lose their attention to detail. These make exceptional cybersecurity personnel.

At Shift5, we understand that personality types and work styles are more indicative of success in cyber security jobs than any specific degree or education type, and that cyber talent pools must embrace these key characteristics in order to meet current and future cybersecurity needs. Our cadre reflects that thinking, with a diverse background of educational focuses, including English literature and statistics, and experience levels ranging from new entries into the workforce to over 30 years in the industry.

Learn more about the Shift5 story here.