A career in cyber security

spyware-2319403_960_720From insurers Hiscox reporting that more than half of firms have experienced a cyber-attack in the past year to the NHS being hit by ransomware, cyber security is as much a hot topic in the news as in the jobs market – this blog gives a snapshot of the why, what, where and how of getting into a career in cyber security.

Why cyber security? As the amount of commercial and organisational activity conducted through or dependent on the internet continues to rise and cyber criminals and hackers become ever more sophisticated, cyber security skills are fast becoming some of the most sought after in the technology and financial services sectors. This rapidly growing demand is creating a number of opportunities for graduates to build a career in a diverse and ever-evolving field. Being so diverse, the cyber security field offers a range of both technical and non-technical roles open to graduates from a variety of disciplines. Keywords such as ‘cyber’, ‘security’, ‘information risk’, ‘information assurance’ and ‘penetration tester’ will help you to search and explore this wide range, as well as track down entry-level and graduate roles.

What is cyber security? Cyber security involves developing and employing a range of technologies, processes and practices to protect computers, data and networks from attack, damage or criminal intrusion. Cyber security, therefore, isn’t just about ensuring that an organisation has the right technical infrastructure, such as firewalls and anti-virus software, or detecting and stopping system breaches. It’s also about putting in place the right policy and procedures to ensure those technical measures are supported by the behaviour of staff, such cautious web browsing, proper use of hardware, software and data, and the use complex passwords.

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What I did with my Computer Science degree

‘My name is Ruby Javid, and I graduated from Computer Science at Queen Mary in 2012.

Last year I joined RecWorks as a Research Assistant, because although I studied Computer Science I didn’t want to be a software developer, yet still wanted to work in Tech/IT. The reason I didn’t want to be a software developer was because I was personally more interested in the designing of software, along with understanding/translating requirements and Human Computer Interaction. Writing code at Uni was fun but never my forte, as it required lots of patience combined with lots of Redbull and coffee! Having said, that it was always a proud moment for me when a piece of code written by me would compile and run without error.

After graduating it took me about five months of active job seeking to finally come across a role that I felt was made for me. I had been successfully interviewing at a lot of great places with tough multiple staged application processes including the likes of the Ministry of Defence and Siemens, but I never felt like I really wanted those jobs. One day I came across a recruitment email sent by QM’s very own Claire Revell about a Researcher role at RecWorks. The job title sounded appealing so I read the job description, had a look at the website and impulsively applied for this role.

I was lucky enough to get a prompt response regarding my application and was sent a challenge to complete. I managed to complete the challenge successfully as it was about Boolean logic (something I had studied in my first year at QM). I was subsequently called in for an interview and made an offer – which I accepted without hesitation and became part of the RecWorks family as a RecWorker.


RecWorks is a recruitment agency that specialises in the tech industry. Our goal is to prove that recruiters can be a power of good in the tech industry, and we’re as passionate about building and helping tech communities as we are about developing our business. Whilst we generate 100% of our revenue from recruitment, we spend also 50% of our time on community-focused work; such as managing tech communities and building initiatives around mentoring tech graduates. As part of this, we have started a number of tech communities and groups in London over the last eight years and have ambitious plans for further development within the tech community scene in London. I love my role because it allows me to utilise my tech knowledge and remain updated with the latest tech trends through the events run by the London Java Community which has been founded by the director of RecWorks Barry Cranford.

The role itself requires you to be passionate about technology, possess great attention to detail and above all enjoy researching and reading. I work with a fantastic team of friendly and talented people. Since getting the job I have been lucky enough to be promoted three times (this included pay rises too!) in under a year. I was also recently given an award for consistency due to my consistent performance and level of understanding. I am now at that stage of my career where I am looking to manage people.

If you are looking for further advice or opportunities, feel free to get in touch with me at rj@recworks.co.uk – always happy to help fellow QM-ites.’

The biggest downfall of candidates at interview stage

If you’re ever invited to a networking event or even just get the opportunity to speak to an employer, make sure you get as much out of them as reasonably possible. It’s always useful to find out from actual employers themselves what they would like to see during interviews and also what they do not like. On an employer visit to the new FDM office in London, I wanted to find out what the biggest downfall of candidates at interview stage was, and these are some of the things that were highlighted:

Common mistakes during an interview

–          Candidates being unable to demonstrate the transferable skills they could bring to a career in IT

–          Candidates not researching the company extensively enough

–          At assessment day, many candidates pass interview stage but fail to achieve the required pass mark on the technical tests showing that they perhaps haven’t put in enough practice (Practice maths questions and logic tests to prepare).

–          Candidates lacking professionalism and enthusiasm

Demonstrating interest in the relevant field

I also wanted to find out in what ways candidates could show that they have a particular interest in the relevant field, especially if they had not studied a technological degree. This was the response:

–          Being able to demonstrate knowledge of the IT sector, new technological products and things going on in current IT news

–          Developing IT skills outside of university i.e. learning programming

–          Creating links between the IT skills developed during your studies to a career in IT

The things mentioned here are things that can be applied to pretty much any industry! Most, if not all employers want to see that you have transferable skills and also that you can be professional and enthusiastic.

If you would like to talk to someone in more detail about interviews and anything else to do with recruitment processes, you can book an appointment to speak to one of our careers consultants to find out more!


Novlet Levy

Careers Information Assistant, QM Careers and Enterprise Centre

Growing vacancies requiring graduates with coding skills – IT degree not necessary

TechCity Futures was a report launched at the recent Digital Shoreditch festival, and those of you with a keen eye will have spotted some reports about it in the Evening Standard and also all over online tech related websites.

One of the key thrusts of the survey (around 141 founders/senior staff based in East London’s Technology Cluster responded), was the skills shortage on the technical side of the businesses holding back future growth.

This isn’t news to me, as over the last 6 or so years of working in the graduate market the most common concern I hear from organisations of all sizes is that they can’t find people, at any level to fulfil the needs of the technical sides of the business.

My team within the Careers & Enterprise Centre handles internships and temporary roles with a range of organisations, and coding/ web development is the number one requirement we see.

The issue with the lack of technical skills in the labour market is a difficult one to unpick. We can lay the blame at almost everyone’s door from Schools and Universities to the employers themselves who aren’t willing/able to invest in training for a promising Intern or junior staff member, but what can you ‘the graduate job hunter’ do to build your skills?

A few weeks ago, I spat out my cornflakes as someone on BBC Breakfast said that this shortage could be fixed by graduates ‘retraining’ as coders as though it is dead easy to learn a new language from scratch when you are trying to make ends meet, but it did make me look at some of the resources you can use to accentuate skills you may already have. Remember you don’t necessarily need to have studied a technical degree, but can use coding / web skills to enhance your existing creativity, research and writing knowledge, giving you access to a broader range of vacancies.

Freeformers run sessions on how to code using Facebook apps. We’ve run a session here at QMUL, and we plan on running more in the new academic year.

You can watch a video about it here.

If you can’t spend a day at the moment then there are also things like Code Academy where you can learn a range of skills at your own pace.

These are just three options and there are loads of different free and pricey options out there.

Now there’s no point in pretending that if you do these you will be an ace coder and waltz into a job, there will be a lot of work for you to do, but it could be a good thing  to try!

James Weaver
Employer Engagement Manager
QM Careers & Enterprise Centre