As one journey comes to the end, another one is just beginning.
Today is my last day with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, after nearly 22 years of service I have had to retire due to an injury. It is slightly an emotional day but something I knew was happening for quit a while, so had time to digest it and plan to move on. I have spent most of my working life as a fire fighter, but have always had a keen interest in computers and technology from an early age.
Around 5 years ago my computer hobby turned into a real passion and I started to escalate my training and studying habits planning to maybe work part-time in the industry. I got involved with Trace Labs which is a non-profit organisation who helps accelerate family reunification of missing persons around the world. I am part of an open source intelligence group were we learn our tradecraft and meet some of the best minds in the world of OSINT. In early 2021 when I realised I would probably have to take early retirement, I began planning to work in the Cyber security industry. With lockdown and reduced hours due to my injury I was able to study hard and put the ground work in working towards my goal.
Self study is difficult, as its just you and a computer screen with long hours of self learning. I have to be honest that there were days when I was not as motivated as others, but kept the routine of study going. I learned over the years if you want to be good at something you have to put the hours and work hard in. While all this was going on I was using my OSINT skills to research the cyber security industry and planning what I should do next to break into this industry. I came across this new exciting and forward thinking company “CAPSLOCK” which I believe was the final piece in my jigsaw to help and support me to get into the cyber security industry.
CAPSLOCK is a company that re-skills adults to become cyber security professionals, I became aware of them as I done a cyber course with one of their co-founders. There was an application process with admission criteria needed before you could be accepted onto the course, so my early self studying paid off in completing this process. It was great that I could also schedule my classes around my work in the fire service. The classes were instructor-led in a digital campus with virtual classrooms. Their curriculum is in collaboration with the U.K’s largest cyber employers, with hands-on skills and labs which you need to start a new career in cyber. I was in a group of 54 and a team of 5 and this is were the collaboration and learning from realistic cyber problems and tasks with colleagues happened. This type of team learning is something that I have never experienced before and now believe it was perfect for me in the way that I learn. We covered areas such as, people and processes, security by design, identity and access management, offensive and defensive security and incident response and business continuity. I also gained industry certifications such as CompTIA S+, ISO 27001, BSC CISMP and Ce-CSP. CAPSLOCK also stands out from other companies for me, as they provide continuous support with a fantastic learning coach, career advisers and the constant mentoring from a team mentor and weekly guest mentors who are worth their weight in gold, as these are the people at the top of the security industry. You also get access to various platforms which include, Immersive labs, Range Force, Learn on demand labs and O’Reilly, you can continue to have this access when you complete course and become a CAPSLOCK Alumni.
Through a CAPSLOCK mentor I applied for a volunteer supervisor role with The Cyber Helpline. I had to build a CV, which I never done for 21+ years and also had an interview which again never had one for over 21 years, especially within the cyber security industry. I have to thank CAPSLOCK again for their help and support during this process. Thankfully I got the role and have been there from October 2021. Working with great people who are passionate about providing advice and help to victims of cybercrime and online harm. Helping over 10,000 victims and receiving an award for the cyber charity of the year 2021, I am proud to be part of this wonderful team.
I have had several interviews now with some great people and companies. These have been instrumental for my growth and knowledge of just how the industry ticks. It is like any other industry or simply just dealing with people, you have the people that will promise you the world and you never hear from them again, even when you ask for feedback they just GHOST you. Then you have the people that you instantly build a repour with and whom are genuinely interested in you and the qualities you possess that will have an impact within their company.
Everything that I have put my mind to in life I have accomplished so I am really excited for the next challenge in my life – The Cyber Security World.
Watch This Space !