Wesley Freeman was a Rifleman in the British Army for five years. He left this year not knowing what he wanted to do and despite having no IT or cybersecurity experience, he enrolled on the free Cyber Security Training Course, ran by SaluteMyJob, in partnership with IBM and the Corsham Institute, where students learn how to navigate the IBM QRadar user interface. During the week long course, he landed one month’s work experience at Satisnet and has since been offered a permanent role with the leading IT Security Reseller.
Wesley said he acquired a number of transferable skills during his Service that he believes are of value to civilian companies. He explained: “It doesn’t feel like that at the time but you really are taught a lot of independent skills in the Army. When you leave, you might find yourself wondering if a lot of the industries you’re interested in getting involved with are out of your skill set or you don’t have what’s required. But just try stuff out. You’ll start to adapt and learn very quickly and you’ll find you’re actually a lot more capable than you think. You really find yourself utilising the skills you learnt over your career. That can-do mental attitude, the ability to work alone, that ability to always find a solution to a problem - if you don’t know something, making sure you find out.”
Wesley was initially interested in joining the police when he left as before he joined the Army, he had been a police officer. He was also looking at what he described as the ‘generic industries’ - such as health and safety and driving jobs - “the generic roles that are pushed towards you when you leave,” he said. But essentially, Wesley had no idea what he wanted to do long term.
Challenges of Transitioning
“The biggest challenges I faced were branching out, investing my time in things I thought I wouldn’t be interested in. I also spent too much time thinking about what I wanted to do,” said Wesley. “For others who are about to leave, I would advise not wasting your Learning Credits or resettlement training funds. Wait until you have found something you really want to do and complete courses that are relevant to that industry. I think a lot of Service Leavers don’t realise that even if a course is not offered through the Careers Transition Partnership, there are still other places that will offer it. I haven’t spent any of my funds yet as I’m hoping to do some further education, related to the job role I am doing at the moment.”
Cyber Security Training Course
Wesley found out about the Cyber Security Training Course through one of SaluteMyJob’s recruitment consultants. “I saw it and remember thinking I didn’t have a clue what cybersecurity was about but when looking at what the course was about - I thought it looked really interesting,” said Wesley. “Before I got involved in the course - I knew how to use Microsoft Word, I had no IT skills or formal qualifications. I was a Rifleman so I had nothing to do with IT or computers. I thought I was going to be completely out of my depth on the course and I remember the course leader going round the room asking about people’s experience and I was the only one who did not have any kind of cybersecurity background. The course leader did think I was going to really struggle but in the end, I did really well. I approached it with a completely blank, fresh mind and because I didn’t have any idea about cybersecurity at the time, I was able to adapt to it. And that goes back to what I was saying earlier - you are a lot more adaptable than you think you are when you leave the Forces. Because even though the course was completely foreign and like a different language to me, because of the way I was taught to think in the Army, to be able to adapt, I was able to do well.”
Wesley said he would highly recommend the course to other Service Leavers. “What’s the worst that is going to happen? You may go there and think this is not for me but at least you have a good qualification on your CV. Best case scenario - what happened to me, you go on the course and then find yourself in a role heavily involved in cybersecurity.”
Opportunity at Satisnet
John McCann, Director at Satisnet visited the candidates on Wesley’s course and that chance meeting led to a career-changing opportunity. “After chatting with John, I was asked whether I would like to do a month’s work experience in their Security Operations Centre and I started straight away. And I have since been offered permanent employment. Initially I was monitoring networking traffic and the role itself was a lot more technical - but my role has since changed. Looking at others within that department, I could see, to get to their level of skill, it would take me three-to-four years so after speaking to John, he suggested I try an Accounts Manager role. So my official title now is Sales Accounts Manager, so it is more about selling IT solutions - but it is so much more than just a sales job as you need to have a good understanding of networking in general.”
Wesley gave this advice to other Service leavers looking to get into the cybersecurity industry.
“A big piece of general advice would be to keep Linkedin up-to-date - and really utilise it. I would also recommend you get involved in any courses offered to you relating to the industry you are wanting to pursue. And although now I am doing something unrelated to QRadar, if it wasn’t for the course I would not be where I am now. Your circumstances can change with one conversation - mine did.”
John McCann, Director at Satisnet, said: "Wes has done really well. It's his attitude, willingness to learn and determination to succeed that have really impressed the team at Satisnet. As soon as I met him, he was positive, articulate and it was obvious that he had set as his goal to get a job in the growing world of opportunity in cybersecurity. He climbed a steep learning curve during his work attachment, which gave both of us the time to decide and he is thriving. He's a great example to other ex-military people and shows how they can succeed in cybersecurity roles, especially the less technical jobs."
To find out more about IT Security Training Courses, click here.