A security journey: How Ivor went from the Army to IBM

Ivor Cook learned plenty about security while serving in the Army. He then expanded on his skills to forge a successful new career with tech giant IBM where he is now a senior security consultant after leaving the military as a Warrant Officer in April last year. 

“When the time came to hang up my uniform, I had a hard time picturing my next adventure. I had training and experience in security, plus the leadership and management skills that came with military service,” he said.

Ivor began his transition by attending one of SaluteMyJob’s free IBM delivered cyber security courses at Corsham  in Wiltshire.

“I did a five–day course on QRadar, an IBM product that detects threats to IT systems and then, through SaluteMyJob, I applied to IBM because I valued their elegant solutions and wanted to be part of that. I now work at IBM as a senior security consultant, assessing risks and reducing their threat.

“The journey I made was understanding that cybersecurity is not a niche that can be ignored, but represents a domain which is so intrinsic to every part of our lives; at work and at home. I think that specific skills can be learned but that military personnel come with a set of in-built skills which can’t be taught like confidence, the ability to talk to people, to take responsibility, to organise and to plan, as well as an ingrained security mindset.

“We don’t sweat the small stuff but still have an eye for detail and we have the ability to move on and replan if things are not working as we would like. Crucially, we don’t walk past something which is going wrong and we don’t walk past a colleague who is having a rough time. Hard skills can always be taught but these things can’t.”

Ivor’s colleague and line manager Mark Bowers, IBM information assurance team leader and project security manager, is himself ex-military, spending 30 years in the Royal Navy before coming out of the service in February 2015.

He served as a weapons engineer, commissioned into information systems, and has, like most military personnel, always been keenly aware of security.

“Everything about the military is about security and it’s ingrained in the ex-military people who come into the company from day one. They don’t consciously think about it, they just do it,” he said.

And with a growing need for people to fill cyber and information security posts, Mark believes ex-military are ideally suited to roles in the field. 

“Ivor, for example, did not have an  information assurance background per se but the skills he brought with him meant he could be very quickly trained and developed. There is a phenomenal amount of work out there and it is not too big a step change in terms of environment and the work sphere. 

“The military have a lot of skills in terms of what they bring; resilience, an ability to plan and they are not fazed by new things because they have been continually exposed to new things throughout their military career. Tasks and problems are tackled head-on and they will always take responsibility for themselves and their team because that’s just who they are.”


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