Meeting the Growing Demand for Cybersecurity Professionals

Cybersecurity is one of the most important aspects of information technology—it protects companies’ and organizations’ networks, programs and data from malicious cyberattacks like website hacking, data theft or ransomware. “Cybersecurity is extremely important to the health care industry because our role is to protect our members’ private health care data,” says Angela Williams, director of information and cyber security for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

A career in cybersecurity has grown considerably over time. “Many years ago, most companies were primarily focused on implementing technologies to minimize a denial of service attack on the network or ensure data didn’t leave the network unauthorized,” Williams says. “Today, it’s more complex because criminals have become much more sophisticated.” The evolution of tools and technologies used by cybercriminals has created an environment that, as Williams says, “can bring a company to its knees in a very short period of time.”

With there being such a high value on health care data, it’s necessary to have an educated workforce that fully understands their role in protecting this information. “Cybercrime is a big business,” says Williams. “It’s critical to also have a highly skilled cybersecurity team.”

Angela Williams,                           director of information and cyber security, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

A Growing Demand

There is currently a great need for cybersecurity professionals in the United States. In 2015, more than 209,000 cybersecurity jobs went unfilled. And it’s projected that by 2019, between one and two million cybersecurity jobs will be vacant. “There are so many opportunities in cybersecurity, especially within Blue Cross,” says Williams. Depending on your interests, you can become a specialist in a number of areas.

  • Security Operations Center Analyst – Members of this team perform daily analysis of Blue Cross’ IT data and networks to identify any threats or incidents.
  • Applications Security Testing – These specialists often have a programming background and focus on identifying vulnerabilities in web applications and databases.
  • Engineers/Architects – For those who are technically driven, this specialty is responsible for designing and implementing the latest security tools.
  • Governance/Risk – These professionals ensure that the appropriate security policies, standards and controls are in place. Under this group, you can also focus on risk management or security awareness and training, which helps all employees learn and understand cybersecurity.

For more information about career opportunities with Blue Cross cybersecurity, visit MIBlueTech.com.

Launching a Cybersecurity Career

While an IT background is valuable, the route one takes to cybersecurity does not have to be straight. “There is no perfect background,” says Williams. “My IT career started as a desktop support specialist, and my continued curiosity to understand how technology should/shouldn’t work eventually led me to a career in cybersecurity.” Curiosity is key characteristic of many cybersecurity professionals, as is a love for problem-solving. “In this field, one almost has to play the role of a detective,” Williams says.

If you’re just starting out, Williams recommends pursuing internship opportunities. “Blue Cross has a phenomenal internship program and the Information Security department actively participates by onboarding s three or four interns each year,” she says. “We give our interns real work and, by the end of the program, they’re ready to be hired.” Some entry-level IT positions are also a great starting point. “Developing foundational skills and knowledge of how technology and applications function can prepare potential candidates to a future career in cybersecurity” Williams says.

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