Tech Next Steps for Veteran Nicola Moxon

Tech Next Steps for Veteran Nicola Moxon

Meredyth Grant

After serving 23 years in the British Army Nicola Moxon, carved out a new career in cyber security using her passion for learning and her military career as a solid foundation to gain new qualifications before securing a job with clothing giant and e-commerce retailer, Next.

In this interview we talk to Nicola who shares her top tips to help other veterans make the leap into a cyber security career.

Full name: Nicola Moxon

Age: 42

Current job title: Senior Security Analyst

When did you join the military? Oct 1996

Who did you serve with? Royal Corps of Signals

How long did you serve? 23 years.

Once you’d signed off, how did you feel?
When I submitted my notice to terminate, albeit just shy of my 24-year career, I was so excited for the future. What would it have in store for my family and I? I was no longer part of the waiting game that we had to endure every 3 years. The suspense and uncertainty of submitting 3 preferences for your next job and awaiting a decision that was out of your control was incredibly difficult to manage. I was ready for the challenge that a new career would bring and understood that I was the one responsible and accountable for my next adventure. It was family and me time.

How did you tackle the resettlement process? What was your plan?
I have always had a passion for lifelong learning, and this certainly helped to tackle the different phases of resettlement. I started my resettlement journey 24 months prior to my last day of service. The first item on my list was academic study, this was one of the areas that I wanted to strengthen. After successfully passing a Level 7 Extended Diploma in Strategic Management and Leadership I decided to pursue an MBA graduating in 2019.

In the next phase of my resettlement l decided to consolidate the skills that I had learnt over my career and undertook various Project Management qualifications – a popular option with service leavers. Next, I decided that I would also complete an Award in Education and Training and an assessor course.

Covid hit during my last month in uniform. It was not how I imagined my last few weeks as a regular soldier would be, I certainly did not plan for it in my exit strategy. However, I had planned to have 6 months off to study and refocus and this I did alongside home schooling. Like many other service leavers, having joined at 17, it was massively important for me to stop and take a deep breath and reflect on my career. I needed to discover who I was outside of the armed forces. The pause, gave me the opportunity to catch up with old friends and colleagues, some of whom I had not spoken to for 15- 20 years. When I reached out, they were there to offer support and time and I was very grateful for this.

The military truly is one big family and the friends you make during your career are friends for life. I look forward to my formal dine out in the Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess where I can reflect and celebrate with friends and family to mark the achievements that I made in my military career.

On reflection, the army has given me skills for life and exposed me to diverse and challenging experiences. I have visited amazing places, coached, and even took part in Olympic winter sports over the past 12 years. Every opportunities that I have been presented with, I have grasped with both hands.

Did you always want to pursue a tech career?

The honest answer is no, it was not at the forefront of my mind as a 17 year old heading to the Army Careers Office. At the time in the 1990’s, technology meant to me tape cassette players then CD walk-mans and then mobile phones and the evolution of the world wide web. It is certainly different for the younger generation today.

Whilst in the Royal Corps of Signals having the opportunity to be exposed to both military and technical leadership within a diverse environment provided the solid foundations of who I am today. The new soldiers that are coming through training are now gaining both military skills but also industry recognised qualifications, a sound investment for during and after service.

Today I find technology, the evolving cyber landscape and human behaviour fascinating. I am passionate and my learning never stops. You need a broad skill set to understand modern security challenges, and having a military background certainly helps. Cyber Security is a dynamic field that attracts people from all different work backgrounds. This means that within the sector we are able to differentiate ourselves by drawing on our unique skillset from service in the forces. There is something for everyone, and you do not have to be a technology subject matter expert to work in Cyber Security. Yes, there are technology-focused roles, but other alternative career paths can also be chosen such as threat intelligence, legal and regulatory compliance, and business analysis to name a few.

What did you enjoy about the military?
During my service in the military, I experienced downs, but doesn’t any job?It is not until you leave and are within a different working environment that you fully come to appreciate the adventure and opportunities you have been fortunate to experience. The amount of travel that I was able to do on an annual basis was immense. From operational tours to Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, adventure training and skydiving in Canada, travelling 80mph headfirst on a skeleton sled in Norway and in my last year of service, I was fortunate to visit Malaysia on a Royal Signals Badminton tour. It was not all adventurous training, sport, and physical challenges, serving in the Royal Signals also gave me a technical identity, and a skillset that included being able to set up complex radio and information networks across a multitude of scenarios; from providing military aid to civilian authorities in the UK to being part of global deployments.

Reflecting on my career, the highlights were opportunities, adventure, skills and friends for life.

What qualities did serving in the army give you to survive in the outside world?
Firstly, the moral and ethical tenets of the army’s values and standards have certainly given me a baseline and solid foundation.

These are some of the qualities that military service can draw out of you, but the list is different for everyone and pretty much endless:

  1. Work well under pressure and react quickly when a situation needs to be resolved.
  2. Good trainers and trainees
  3. Adaptability and focus
  4. Loyalty and Empathy
  5. Team player
  6. Ability to lead others and work cohesively.
  7. Ability to make decisions.
  8. Organisation/Administration
  9. Dedication
  10. Self Confidence

Do you regret leaving the military?
I do not regret leaving my role as a full time, regular soldier. I now get the best of both worlds and continue to serve with the Army Reserves still within the Royal Corps of Signals.

What were your main concerns when you were leaving the military?
On my final day, there were only 4 colleagues in work, it was strange and when I was driving home, although it was my daily routine commute, I felt an overwhelming sense of excitement for what the future had in store. I was more concerned that I did not have any concerns. I had a lovely home that I had bought and lived in since 2008, so I had no added pressure of finding housing for my family or re-settling my children, I also had savings and the security of a pension. I felt very fortunate.

Who’s been your main role model or mentor?
Throughout my career I have met many inspiring people, that have had a positive affect on my life. Key takeaways for me have always been;
‘lead by example and from the front’ and ‘the standards you walk by are the standards you accept’.

How has TechVets and the community supported you?
TechVets gave me the confidence to pursue a career within Tech/Cyber. The whole community is exceptionally welcoming no matter what your previous background is. Someone will always be around to offer honest advice and guidance, no matter what the question is. Everyone helps each other and it is a very supportive environment.

What advice would you give to people in the military who are considering leaving but are too scared to go through the seven clicks to freedom?

1.Understand why you are considering leaving and why you are hesitant to make the decision?
2. Brainstorm/mind map.
3. Be honest with yourself and your family. What impact will it have if you decide to leave?

What are you doing now?
I work across Information Security/ Cyber Defense/ Senior Security and Incident Response for a Retail/eCommerce company.

What training or advice would you offer to others embarking on a similar resettlement journey?
1. Reach out to Family and Friends, Colleagues.
2. No matter how long you have served in the forces, everyone has received similar if not the same soldier training and have the solid foundations to succeed. What is your personal brand and what makes you unique?
3. Prepare, prepare, prepare. 4. Ask for help and guidance.
5. Join TechVets.
6. Network through LinkedIn.
7. CVs can take a while a master, so the earlier you can start to draft the better. Make use of the TechVets Crest CV service.

1. Research providers and courses. This will allow you to select the right course and could potentially save you hundreds of pounds. Many resources are available free or at little cost.
2. Take responsibility for your own resettlement journey.
3. Look for a work placement/internship in your target sector. This will give you a taster and the chance to showcase your honed skills to a potential employer.
4. Apply for Military Talent programmes such as the AWS programme and the Immersive Labs scheme.