Civvy Life – Career hacks in cyber security

Civvy Life – Career hacks in cyber security

Meredyth Grant

Towards the end of last year, Civvy Street magazine caught up with TechVets member Luke Spencer to interview him and find out how he managed to make the jump from a career in the forces to a career in Tech.

Luke Spencer Served for 10 years as a Tank Crewman and Gunnery Instructor and was involved in Op Herrick 16 in Afghanistan in 2012 before resettling in 2019 and discovering a passion for computers.

Did you enjoy your Military career?

I really liked it. I think the best part of my career was when I became a gunnery instructor. I was loving it really, teaching and running my own show, so to speak. It was really good.

What were the circumstances around your resettlement?

Basically, I’d had a good career and I had an unofficial chat with someone who was kind of telling me, ‘You’ve had it really good for a while and you’re probably going to get spammed with something’. I looked at the facts, I was still quite young, I think 26 at the time, and thought, you know, it’s probably time for me to try to get into something new.

So, you must’ve joined as a teenager. The prospect of resettlement must’ve been quite daunting…

Absolutely. I had the stereotype council kid background. I didn’t leave school with any qualifications other than a C in English. So, I went to the Military and that was basically my life. I had gained qualifications in the Military, NVQ’s with engineering Luke Spencer Served for 10 years as a Tank Crewman and Gunnery Instructor and was involved in Op Herrick 16 in Afghanistan in 2012 before resettling in 2019 and discovering a passion for computers.CIVVY LIFECivvy Life – Career hacks in cyber security and maintenance, which is something I could have followed up, but I just knew it wasn’t something I really wanted to do.

Was it a jolt or a shock to come out and not have everything regulated and regimented?

It was a shock. I loved the freedom and the versatility of life after leaving, but the main panic was money. Luckily, I’d also picked up truck licences in the Military which I was able to use, which was pretty good pay, but it’s a massive shift in lifestyle, because I’d been doing standard days in the Military, but trucking was 12 hours per day, solid. Recently, I’ve had quite a lot of messages from people I’ve worked for asking me to go back!

What were the circumstances around your decision to get into cyber security?

While I was serving in Canada, I’d started doing a HTML5 & CSS course with a friend. I learned how websites are built and I liked it and it was the thing which proved to me that I can learn about computers. After I got back from Canada the 2IC was speaking with me about it and he said I should look at cyber security. It’s a growing sector and there are places within the industry where Veterans are getting in and they’re being treated as preferred candidates.

I’d always loved the idea of cyber security and hacking and penetration testing but it always seemed a bit out of reach. I looked at that and then looked at the things that ELCAS was offering and enrolled onto a course.

How did TechVets help you, especially during the height of the pandemic?

I’ve been a member of TechVets for quite a long time. I was able to get a lot of help and course material through TechVets. They got me sorted out with Immersive Labs, Try Hack Me and that was pretty much my life while we were in the pandemic. I was spending most of my time just studying really.

I’d spend the evenings cracking boxes and stuff with some of the other members there and you’d get on a chat and talk about it; it was really good actually. Through them, I got my name out there and people started forwarding me job ads.

Where do you think you would be now without TechVets?

I think I’d still be in trucks to be honest. I now work for Pentest People, it’s quite a fast-growing company in cyber security. There are quite a few Veterans in the company already. They have a different mindset when they’re taking people on. A lot of job ads will say, you need this experience, we want to see this, we want to see that, but with this company, you don’t need to have a background; as long as you can demonstrate your passion for wanting to get in, then they can bring you on. That was perfect for me because I didn’t have any background in IT but I did have some qualifications and I could talk about it, and they took me on. I’m a fully remote worker so I just work from home. They sent me all the equipment; it’s all been great.

Do you find yourself reflecting or using your Military acquired skills and attributes in your job?

The main skill I use is taking technical speak and then passing that on in a different way. Because I work with a range of customers with different skill levels. Some of them are seasoned IT managers and others are base engineers, you kind of need to be able to explain things to all levels of expertise. That’s definitely something you get taught in the Military, I was teaching Soldiers and Officers of all different backgrounds.

What’s your best advice for current Service-leavers?

The main advice is definitely to get on TechVets because everyone there is like-minded. You’ve got people on there who have got their careers going, been in it for years and they’re helping everyone out. And then you’ve got others who are thinking of doing something (in IT). There’s so much stuff being given out for free, different courses, and things like that. The main thing though is just don’t give up. It can be quite competitive and you’re going to have people telling you that you can’t become a penetration tester without a background in networking. It can really dishearten you and make you think, oh, maybe I’ve got it wrong. But you just need to keep going.