It’s obvious that thriving in cybersecurity requires strong technical expertise, but that’s not the only thing that influences success. As you’re choosing how and where to learn cyber, keep in mind that there are a number of other qualities necessary to propel a career in cyber and having a teacher who can help you hone these skills can help your career trajectory.
Veer Dedhia, a former Google security engineer and current Fullstack Cyber Bootcamp lead instructor, is a strong believer in the power of learning from professionals who have mastered the art of teaching adult learners. He shares the top skills that prospective cyber students should look for in teachers.
- Building Teamwork & Communication Skills
- “Connecting the Dots” for Students
- Giving Context on How Students Will Use Tools on the Job
- Providing Empathy & Modifying Instruction to Meet Students’ Needs
Teamwork and Communication
Veer explains, “A job in cybersecurity requires teamwork and communication, both soft skills that are equally important as the technical know-how. Working in a SOC (security operations center), the team often has to provide 24/7 coverage, which requires shifts, and may even include teams in different time zones. Documenting and communicating incident state is paramount to ensuring that your coworkers can pick up where you left off.”
He continues, “Larger incidents require escalation to incident management teams, which must operate as a cohesive team. Growing in a cyber career requires learning these soft skills, especially to communicate technical concepts to non-technical audiences.”
According to Forbes, the ability to work together and communicate effectively are some of the most important skills you need to succeed at work. Speaking specifically of collaboration, Forbes says, “In our increasingly hyper-connected world, we’re no longer expected to work just as individuals or only in silos. Our projects have become more complex, so the ability to work effectively as part of a team has also grown in importance.”
It adds, “Given the increasingly global nature of work, your ability to collaborate, share knowledge and contribute to teams that can capitalize on a diversity of thinking and perspective in ways that everyone can benefit and drive to the shared outcomes is critical.”
“Connecting the Dots” for Students
“One of the things that separates experts from beginners is the number of connections between different topics. Experts know how to connect and contrast concepts such as http, dirbuster, nmap, web requests, and lfi. Beginners may see each of those concepts or tools as separate, isolated topics to learn,” explains Veer.
He adds, “A good teacher is able to build those connections, and cultivate that understanding of how everything is connected. That’s one thing that is so very difficult to learn from reading the documentation or tutorials.”
Connecting the dots is critical. Steve Jobs famously talked about connecting the dots in a 2005 Stanford commencement speech. He talked about experiencing a set of personal disparate connections that all later came together that shaped his life and helped him create Apple and all its innovations. According to Steve, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.” In terms of cybersecurity instructors, having a teacher who can reflect back on how the dots came together and relay those learnings to you is invaluable.
Giving Context on How Students Will Use Tools on the Job
“Learning from someone who works in the field adds value by exposing students to the context around how they use the tools on the job. The tools are how I get my job done, but how I choose the correct tools and what the incident requires me to do are incredibly important to understand. Those stories and experiences can be learned from our expert instructors.” Veer says.
Adults learn differently than school-aged children—something that’s been cited many times in a new field of research called andragogy (as opposed to pedagogy, which references teaching youth). A pioneer in this field was Malcolm Knowles, who created a set of founding principles about adult learners.
At Fullstack Cyber Bootcamp we’re more interested in practical applications than theory, but andragogy is important to understand because one of the core assumptions is that adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance to their job or personal life. Because of this, giving context for students on how to apply their learnings—something that can most effectively be done by a skilled instructor—is essential to mastering a concept.
Providing Empathy & Modifying Instruction to Meet Students’ Needs
“Empathy and the ability to make connections/analogies is essential. The first is incredibly important because we teachers need to understand where our students are before we can guide them to the correct understanding,” Veer says.
“The second ability is important to help guide the students’ learning. I ask my students to tell me their understanding first, or to answer their own questions, before I step in and guide them to the correct solution. This allows me to understand where their misconception or lack of knowledge is, and pick the best example to teach them the concept,” he adds.
This is echoed by LINCS, a national leadership initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, whose goal is to expand evidence-based practice in the field of adult education.
According to LINCS, “teacher effectiveness determines student achievement and performance.” To increase the odds of success, they advise employing using empathy, which they call a “transformational learning technique.”
LINCS reports, “Teachers need to be trusting, empathetic, caring, authentic, sincere, and demonstrative of high integrity. They need to provide students with immediate and helpful feedback, employ activities that promote student autonomy, participation, and collaboration and help them to explore alternative perspectives and engage in problem-solving and critical reflection.”
At Fullstack Cyber Bootcamp, we train all of the above, giving students rigorous technical training along with the soft skills necessary to propel students toward a high-growth, lucrative career.
If you’re interested in learning from our teaching style, we recommend experiencing one of our remote lectures.