IT Developer Gary Dickinson Upskills to Cyber Security Landing Dream Role in 24 Weeks

cyber security career change from IT and applications development

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Six months was all Gary Dickinson needed to transition into Cyber Security with the Institute of Data’s Cyber Security course at the University of Technology Sydney. With a career background in IT and COBOL Applications Development, Gary gained fresh technical skills and consulting skills but it was the job outcomes component of the course that made all the difference.

Now, with a completely new career trajectory he is loving his new role. Have a read through his learning journey below:

You have a background in the IT field! What motivated you to upskill and pursue a career in Cyber Security?

“I’m seeing Cyber Security becoming extremely prevalent today and in the future. Everyday, we are constantly bombarded with emails, phone calls, cyber threats from scammers wanting our personal information and, of course, money. I’m interested in helping prevent these devastating events from happening to someone I know, or a company I may consult with. This is the reason that motivated me to up-skill in this area.”

Can you describe your career and  industry experience before making the change to cyber security?

“My career background is predominantly in the IT space – as a COBOL developer and application development team leader & manager. I have been self employed for a few years prior to up-skilling with this program – running my own business on Amazon and publishing books over the years. I do also have a diploma in management – PMP (PMI).”

What were your career goals before upskilling to cyber? How has your outlook changed?

“Prior to up-skilling, I didn’t have any concrete career goals. I was working for myself for some time and was more aiming for a change in my career path – hence why I transitioned my career.” 

Why did you choose to join the Part-Time Program in particular?

“The reason why I chose the part-time program is because I had other commitments that did clash with the full-time program, it allowed me to balance everything in my life easier. Part-time class hours suited my schedule better. In hindsight, I could have stretched myself to complete the full-time course though.”

How did you land a new role after completing your training in the program?

“I landed the new role through many, many applications, sending emails with expressions of interest, contacting local MPs, and even contacting previous employers from Ireland. It was through my own hard efforts as well as the practical skills & careers guidance that I was able to land the position at the end of the day.”

You’re now working as a Technical Advisor – Congratulations! How did you get a job in the industry after completing your training and what guidance would you give someone applying for jobs after upskilling?

“I sent an EOI for a role that I actually didn’t qualify for – they wanted an Australian citizenship which I don’t have. I did mention this in my letter. Thankfully, they actually had other positions in the company that didn’t need citizenship! It was a great learning experience because it made me realise I need to be creative, not be blinkered in what I’m applying for, and focus on the roles and/or companies that I’d like to work for – not just the role. That would be what I would suggest to other people who are applying for Cyber Security positions.”

How do you compare your career situation now to 6-12 months ago?

“I am way better off! I’m employed now, previously was not employed. I’m really loving my experience with the company and looking forward to growing in my new sphere of experience over the next 6-12 months.”

What is one thing you know now that you wish you knew before changing careers to cyber?

“One thing I wish I knew before changing careers to cyber was how vast the industry is! It may have helped if I had narrowed down where I did want to land up in.”

Tell us about your capstone project! How did you come up with your topic?

“My capstone project was on Experimenting with Web Application Firewalls. There were a few topics provided that we could choose from. At the end of the day, we weren’t tied down on any topics in the list – we could come up with our own that interested us.

Websites are hacked daily, and Web Application Firewalls are an excellent tool to protect them. With the numbers of people heading online after the COVID-19 story hit us, I decided to choose this topic as my capstone project. I used Shadow Daemon as a tool because it was free shareware. I was only going to use this for a short period of time, which was sufficient for the project.”

How did you find the process of completing your final Capstone project during the course? What did it teach you?

“My particular project was difficult because there was very little documentation on SD. I managed to get the proof on concept, load all the existing rules, and execute various tests. However, without the documentation available, I could not find specifically how the rules were interpreted or worked.

It taught me that some tools are not necessarily the be-all-and-end-all. If one doesn’t fit the bill, then try others. Time constraints in my case, prevented that. I gained valuable presentation and reporting skills out of the project.”

What do you enjoy the most about cyber security?

“I enjoyed the scope of areas the program covered, and therefore the variety of skills to learn. I also enjoyed being in a position to learn as much as I can to protect myself and others from potential cyber attacks.”

Is there anything else you would like to add or any final thoughts?

“I think many people do have a bit of an unrealistic expectation entering into this Cyber Security course. Many do expect to walk out as a technical, penetration testing, ethical hacker/guru. This isn’t necessarily the case though.

The course covers cybersecurity as a whole and everything that you will come across in this field e.g. GRC, mind of attacker, mind of defender, various technical tools used in Cyber Security (wireshark, nmap, VMs, etc.) and a whole lot more. I came into the course not knowing the first thing about Cyber Security (very limited knowledge and of course a preconceived idea of what it might be e.g. NCIS).”

Connect with Gary on LinkedIn here.


Congratulations Gary!

At the end of the day, you don’t need to have a technical background at all to succeed in the course. It is important to have curiosity, willingness to learn and motivation to put in the hard work applying for roles. Then you can take your career wherever you want to.

If you are interested in up-skilling and landing a job position within the Cyber Security field, book in a consultation with our Data Career Consultants today.

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