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Cyber Scotland Week: Spotlight on Cyber Security Graduate Apprenticeships

Cyber Scotland Week - Spotlight on cyber security talent graduate apprenticeship Cieran Smith

As part of Cyber Scotland Week, we caught up with the newest member of our Network and Infrastructure team, Cieran Smith. Cieran has been a talented member of our Service Desk team for two years, and now he’s undertaking his graduate apprenticeship in cyber security as part of his role here at KubeNet.

Today he shares more about why he chose cyber security, undertaking a graduate apprenticeship while working full time, and what parts of his new role he finds the most exciting.

Q&A: Cyber Security Graduate Apprenticeship

Q: Hi Cieran. Thanks for sharing more about your graduate apprenticeship with us today. So, what inspired you to choose a career in cyber security?

A: I've always had a strong interest for how things work, specifically computing/software, and a lot of cyber security fundamentally comes down to how software/hardware works and how people take advantage of it to cause harm. This, combined with being very inquisitive, naturally points to the many fields of cyber security. So it felt like quite a natural career path for me. 

Also, a few years before starting at Kubenet, I dipped my toes into the many fields of I.T. to see what I liked. I studied software development, web development and networking before I came across some of the big names in the content side of the cyber industry - including John Hammond, David Bombal and Network Chuck. Their content really pushed me into starting a career in Cyber, which is when I began my HNC Cyber Course, prior to starting at KubeNet.

Q: What particular area of cyber security are you most passionate about?

A: I've certainly still got many areas to cover but so far I've been primarily drawn to Blue Team Defence Security (which is all about proactively monitoring and defending against attacks) - this is also in part because I have been part of projects at KubeNet that relate to this, such as strengthening clients security infrastructure & Vulnerability Management.

Additionally,  I've a keen interest in the digital forensics side of things (which is an analytical breakdown of the how, after a cyber crime has been committed) - which is not something I've done at KubeNet but I still find really fascinating how far you can go in finding out how someone has done wrong. I've also developed an interest recently in cyber policy and procedure after being part of the internal team at KubeNet which attained the Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation. 


Q: What motivated you to join the cyber security graduate apprenticeship?

It was a goal of mine a few years ago to obtain a full degree in Cyber Security. During my HNC at college, I was offered a part time position on their IT service desk and this led to a role at Kubenet as a service desk engineer. I'm a very practical learner and a lot of the top voices in the industry praised how vital it is to get those early years of service desk experience which is crucial in developing any IT career as it exposes you to many different aspects of the industry, especially at an MSP. I made the choice to pause my education after achieving an A in my HNC Cyber Security course to go and get some real word experience. 

So when the opportunity arose at KubeNet to be able to continue working full time while attending university classes one day a week, it was almost perfect for me to continue my studies while having the ability to keep gaining valuable industry experience. It was like being offered the best of both worlds. 


Q: What do you hope to achieve through the programme?

I hope to achieve the best grade possible from my graduate apprenticeship. 

Additionally, my main goal from this programme is to apply what I have learned in theory to real world scenarios and ultimately improve our cyber security offerings at KubeNet. Every new theory or idea I learn from university is always brought back to KubeNet to see if we can implement it in anyway to help our customers. 

As far as future goals past the degree, I'm ultimately not sure yet as I'm really focused on doing the best I can do at university while maintaining a high level of performance in my current role at KubeNet. 


Q: How do you find the blend of working vs learning?

There are certain weeks here and there where a lot of projects/Incidents with work overlap with busy weeks at university and this is more so now that I am part of the infrastructure team, but I knew this going in. It takes a bit of sacrifice on weekends and late nights to make sure I'm up to date with my course work but nothing that is not worth the time in the long run.

I've been to University before as well as college, so I think that I'm in a perfect position to analyse this style of learning versus full time. I can say that with out a doubt that the graduate apprenticeship style of learning is the best for me personally. I can take any cyber security theory from the classroom that I may not understand and ask anyone in my Infrastructure team for help to understand how it works in practise. Simply having access to industry professionals with years of experience is really useful. 

I've also been able to run with a number of cyber related projects at KubeNet ranging from pentesting to vulnerability management which also strengthens what I learn at university as I'm putting into practise the theory from the course.  


Can you share any advice for people wanting to pursue a career in cyber?

Cyber Security is not an entry level industry and requires a great deal of understanding of many of the core principles such as networking, OS & Computing Fundamentals, but this doesn't mean that its not accessible. There are so many resources online that you can use to build up your core knowledge. 

I would also advise looking for (if not already in) a service desk role. The reason that so many people always suggest starting in a service desk role is because putting your first few years into this will help build up your problem solving and research skills which is a fundamental core to cyber security. It's worth noting that a Degree is not required but certifications definitely will be.

Finally, if your lucky, find a company that will support your learning path and give you an opportunity to learn and grow. Cyber Security is infamous in the industry for people having extreme hiring standards for entry level roles - sometimes the best you can do is start in a different role and try to slowly take on more security related roles or ask for time shadowing the cyber security team. 


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