“Pre-Professional: any individual who has not yet (and never has) obtained a position working in the cybersecurity field. This may include anyone who has interest in working in this area with or without formal training and education in the field. Examples of individuals and or situations who may be part of this phase are: individuals who are switching careers (former military, IT, retail, law enforcement, etc.) and students (high school or university).”
I was there once. And this stage can be very difficult. I remember attending my first Defcon conference and just being blown away at how smart everyone was. I thought, maybe information security wasn’t for me. Then I was given some great advice by someone I met, “Stop comparing my behind-the-scenes to others highlight reels.” This changed everything. Realizing that no one was born with the knowledge, and that they all had to work and put in time really put me on the right path.
I fit into both of the last categories from the Pre-Professional definition; I was looking to switch careers and I was a student. I was working as a bartender, but I decided to switch my major to Information Systems and begin studying for some of the entry-level certifications. By the time I finished my bachelors, I already had 2 CompTIA certs under my belt. This is when I found the Las Vegas ISSA Chapter. It was time to find out which part of the cybersecurity field I was best suited for. By attending meetings, I was exposed to different facets of the industry. I finally found one sector that really interested me. I was introduced to it by a Speaker at one of the meetings. I eventually got my first job in the industry with his company. It was a great experience.
In conclusion, just remember that whomever you look up into in the industry paid their dues and earned their stripes just like you are trying to do right now. Don’t be discouraged, keep moving forward. One day, you’ll have a highlight reel of your own.