From signing off to landing a great cyber security career, read first-hand advice from former Royal Signals engineer Alistair Lamont.
Family helped inspire his career path (Alistair grew up with his father also serving) but eventually, family also helped him decide to sign off.
“I was engaged, looking forward to having possible children and I needed a plan to support that,” he explains. “The 3% pay rise would not come close to childcare costs and the increased fuel costs alone had left us in a position that was difficult. For my family’s future and my own, it was time to leave.”
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Finding Fulfilment with a Cyber Security Career
Alistair says he was always interested in IT but worried that specialised technical training would limit his options. Since finances were one of his post-Service concerns, he hoped to work in an industry with room to grow.
“I wanted to steer away from being technical,” Alistair says. “One thing I had learnt was to get to the top and earn big money, you had to decide strategy not be the guy upgrading servers. And so I set on GRC in cyber as an area I could use my technical knowledge to aid me but not define my career.”
GRC (governance, risk management, and compliance) in cyber involves working to keep data safe, protect its integrity, and manage it in ways that align with a client’s chosen business objectives. Alistair is now a PCI Assurance Professional with the BT Group, using his GRC skills to keep BT customers’ payment information protected. Alistair Lamont called the Army “a constant” in his life- so leaving wasn’t easy.
“I worried that I had not made the right decision, after all I have never known anything other than the military,” he explains. “TechVets offered the comfort and information I needed to create a plan, as well as my colleagues, Chain of Command and friends who had made the journey.”
Now on the other side of resettlement, Alistair has wisdom to share. If you’re considering a cyber security career after military service, you’ll be glad to hear that his choice paid off.
“I have increased my salary by 65%, joined an industry where I am now learning again and not repeating the same knowledge, and have secured a role working from home, making up for the time I have been away,” he tells TechVets. “I can also now plan holidays and weekends without the fear of them being interrupted by last-minute tasks or sudden trawls and be treated like an adult with respect and value.”
Here are Alistair’s own words on how he made it happen.
Serving in the Royal Signals Before Working in Tech
Alistair chose to go directly from completing his A-levels to joining the Army, where he thrived.
“I was one of the fortunate ones who travelled around the world doing roles I loved, with the most professional and genuine people I have ever met,” he recalls. “My career was varied, and I had the opportunity to work with a number of organisations, NGOs, Government departments and Military Units as a Communications Systems Engineer (now named Information Services Engineer) in the Royal Signals.”
So why change careers? Despite producing work at a Corps level on top of his day-to-day tasks, teaching Python to his peers and organising exercises, Alistair saw his extra efforts being largely undervalued. That didn’t feel like a worthy trade for the family time he was missing.
Veterans and service leavers often excel in GRC cyber careers thanks to their finely-tuned moral compass and real-world risk management skills.
“You can land a 50k job if you don’t have the qualifications or experience to back it up,” Alistair explains, “but only if you can interview well. Find something that stands you apart from every other project manager-service leaver who thinks they have discipline and good time keeping skills.”
Alistair found that he had many more assets than he expected when it came to applying for cyber jobs.
“Cyber security was a grey area to me,” he shares. “The army teaches that it’s a place of red teams, however as I learnt more about it and spoke to more people, I quickly learnt I had been doing it my whole career without knowing.”
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Succeeding with Support from Veterans in Tech
Alistair calls TechVets “the foundation of my resettlement.” Here are the steps he took independently and with our support.
1. Updating His CV/Contacts: “Day One I signed off, that night I created my first draft CV, and broadcast it to my network asking for advice, as well as updating my LinkedIn and letting all the recruiters I had previously spoken to over the years that I was now on the market actively searching.”
2. Planning His Path: “I did research, decided what I wanted to do with the help of TechVets and friends and set to work on organising a timeline of courses, whilst also checking the courses were valuable and not just tick boxes.”
3. Training and Networking: “Techvets allowed me to explore the industry, allowed me to learn some pentesting skills with the cyber scheme, introduced me to lots of companies, and even opened the door to get me an interview with Cognizant that led to a job offer.”
4. Becoming Active in the Industry: “I started networking on LinkedIn more and applying for jobs- I had a few interviews, these were less about the jobs but more about learning what an Interview was and how to conduct myself whilst also starting discussions with people in the industry, finding the trends and the do’s and don’ts.”
5. Ongoing Mentorship: “The whole Techvets platform has been brilliant, James absolutely put everything into it, and I will be staying on to support him and others. I would like to mention @CraigT as he took the time to squash any fears and give me support early on, and then carried that on throughout my journey, always offering sound advice.”
RELATED: How to combat the fear of signing off
Alistair’s Advice for Tech Curious Soldiers
Want to give it a shot? Alistair has valuable tips specific to anyone leaving the Forces for a career in cyber security/technology.
- Start as early as you can.
- Build your LinkedIn and attend as many seminars as possible.
- Research and remember no plan ever survives first contact, so plan in redundancy.
- Join TechVets for help getting your CV sorted.
- Start interviewing early, even if it is just for the practice.
- Know your worth- the qualities the military gives you (building strong rapports, teamwork, analysis at a deeper level) are impressive and can be harnessed and focused upon leaving.
- Try to do everything in your last 6 months.
- Expect the resettlement/networking work to get done for you.
- Listen to the garage floor- get the gen from those already in industry.
- Become a ghost (by ignoring opportunities for help and support).
- Forget that civilian workplaces are different from military ones- it will be a change.
- Appear too institutionalised when relaying military experience to civilian interviewers (TechVets can help with that).
Lastly, in Alistair’s words: “if you need advice, ask!”
You can learn from another success story at the link below, and if you’re a veteran, service-leaver, reservist, or spouse, find your place in TechVets’ community right here.
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