Veterans Have More Cybersecurity Skills Than They Know

Courtesy of Lt. Col. Timothy Stoner

When seeking jobs outside the military, many veterans look for ways to translate their military training into civilian terms. Lt. Col. Timothy Stoner of the Army Reserve is an Advisory principal at PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) in the cybersecurity and privacy practice.  According to him, cybersecurity is one area where veterans may underestimate their own skills and training. Cybersecurity is a field that seems technical and intimidating but is well-suited for almost anyone who has spent time in the military. Hirepurpose sat down with Lt. Col. Stoner to talk about why more veterans should consider cybersecurity in their job search.

Please tell us the highlights of your military career and your experience in the Army.

I began as a private and worked my way up. I was enlisted for eight years in the infantry as a Ranger, then went to the Army Officer Candidate School, and then flight school. I flew Black Hawks for 12 years in an assault role, then began flying MEDEVAC. I call this transitioning from the pain-dealing side of the Army to the pain-healing side. The more missions we completed and evacuated really wounded people, the more it resonated with me to provide this life-saving function. The pain-healing side of the Army was transformational for me as a leader, so when I returned from Iraq, I chose to stay with MEDEVAC and Medical Service as a career track in the Reserves.

What are some ways veterans can translate their skills into civilian jobs?

Veterans often undersell their leadership and life experience and they would benefit by translating their skills more effectively.  Leadership skills are an important strength when we think about veterans transitioning into civilian jobs. The military prepares veterans for civilian careers in many ways, and better than many programs and education.  

First is leadership: the number of deployments and leadership opportunities they have been given along the way typically puts veterans ahead of their peer group in the civilian world. There’s nothing like the gravity of leadership in a foreign country during a deployment. The responsibility of having others’ lives ahead of your own makes you a stronger leader.  

The next is getting the job done and veteran work ethic. I haven’t met a single veteran who is looking at the clock, asking, “When are we done?” Veterans are mission-oriented and used to completing a task no matter how long it takes.

Third is professionalism. Veterans have had to live in environments where they have to maintain military bearing and tact, so they are used to professionalism.

Some veterans hesitate to leave government work because of the job stability. Is a role in cybersecurity at a professional services firm a stable position?

No government or commercial sector can guarantee stability. Stability in government work may change due to budgets or elections. Diversity of skills and experience is something you can take with you. Develop and hone your skills and equip yourself with experience and education to diversify yourself.

I put myself through undergrad using the GI Bill. I didn’t know I was going to go into cybersecurity; I just studied the market and knew that a business undergrad degree wasn’t enough. I wanted to differentiate myself in graduate school with information technology and cybersecurity and after completing graduate school I started doing technology consulting. My civilian job is different from my Army job, and I love this diversity.

What advice would you give to other veterans who are considering a career in cybersecurity or technology?

Connect with military-friendly companies and connect with fellow veterans. When veterans trust an organization and reciprocally the organization values their veterans, this is a tremendous accelerator in the corporate environment and resulting relationships. Trust is a force multiplier.  

Reflect on your military career and where you’ve had to operate with physical security and safeguards, where you have needed to maintain document security and operational security. Those are immediately translatable to cybersecurity skills. You may be nervous about the technologies because you haven’t had a chance to work with them, but there are classes, trainings and certifications that you can earn to build skills and capabilities. That will help you translate your military experience into a career in cybersecurity.

When in doubt, reach out to a veteran who works in cybersecurity. Use your networks to practice translating your skills, prepare your resume and practice interviewing and telling your story.

How do you currently advocate for veteran employment at PwC?

I currently lead the PwC’s Veterans Affinity Network (VAN), and I have hired enlisted and former officers. Veterans can often come with a mission mindset, time management skills, and the ability to maintain professionalism and be comfortable with potentially longer workdays.

The firm provides technology-based training, hands-on experience and the foundational cybersecurity knowledge.  I think almost all veterans know what information security, physical security, and, operational security are — you have more skills in cybersecurity than you realize.

Stoner is also involved in military family readiness programs. He wrote the blog Sneak Peak during some of his deployments to help families feel more reassured about their deployed loved ones.

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