Are you considering a career change, perhaps into cyber, and don’t know where to begin?
Recently the Canberra Cyber Hub sat down with Tareq Mandou, Director of Strategic Growth at Apporetum, a Cybersecurity Scale up that specialises in Identity and Access Management on top of Microsoft solutions, and the Founder of Subdimension, a company that supports tech scale-ups get their products and ideas to market, to hear about their career change journey and advice for others looking to do the same.
Boasting a varied career across multiple industries, cyber security wasn’t always the path Tareq found himself on. With a background in business management, product marketing, and people leadership, Tareq is currently undergoing a transfer into the cyber security space, transferring his skills from previous roles along with undertaking new learnings and study along the way.
Can you tell us about your career and education history ahead of getting into cyber?
I graduated from the American University of Sharjah with a degree in Computer Science. I enjoyed programming and loved solving complex problems methodologically.
A year after graduation, I was offered a job with Microsoft as an Online Marketing Manager for the Middle East region - that was before social media was a thing. Over a period of 15 years in Microsoft, I worked across 3 different continents and in 6 different roles that helped me build skills in Product Marketing, Business Management, Channel Sales and Development, Technical Pre-sales, and People Leadership.
What made you consider a career in cyber?
From being a grad with tech experience to being in a marketing environment my boundaries were certainly challenged early on in my career.
By combining the two disciplines, I learned that not everything is 1’s and 0’s and with marketing there is a lot of trial and error before getting to the right or ‘correct’ answer, whereas with software, if your code is correct, you get an immediate response from your work.
At first, the uncertainty of marketing was uncomfortable. Now I see that this was beneficial and has provided me with transferable skills that I have been able to take into a new experience, while simultaneously gaining new skills in the cyber domain.
When thinking of why I considered transferring into cyber, the two biggest factors that influenced my decision were:
1. The variety and excess of job opportunities and required skills surrounding the topic, whether it is research, technical, business, government, or policy related. There are a vast number of opportunities in the space, and after some research, I was able to establish where I could effectively bring my transferable skills into the industry while expanding and sharpening my existing skills in cyber.
2. Another consideration was the long-term projected growth of the cyber industry. Unlike other industries which may surface and slowly disappear or be automated over time, cyber is in a different space. The increased cyber risks that will grow with the introduction of new technologies, IoT devices, and new mediums of communication; as well as the dependency on the internet both in a personal and professional capacity, will create an opposing reaction and hopefully result in innovations that will manage, contain, and address those risks. Both risks and innovation will be supported by increased demand for people with both transferable and/or cyber skillsets.
How did you find the transition into the industry? Did you have to undertake any additional training or learning pathways?
I feel privileged that my first job in cyber required bringing some transferable skills along with the aptitude to learn cyber. As they say, attitude is everything.
While I didn’t require cyber or technical skills when starting my new career, I have since taken up a post-graduate degree in cyber and criminology along with attending technical training sessions online and playing with different tools. This approach allows me the opportunity to explore what I like about cyber and where I will one day specialise.
How have you found the transition into the cyber industry?
The transition to cyber has been a great experience. I am at a stage where I am figuring out what I like in cyber and which area I want to specialise in.
The cyber community has also been very welcoming. From interacting with people at meetups and conferences, such as the Australian Information Security Association’s Australia Cyber Conference, I have been able to connect with others in the industry while learning more about the different avenues available within cyber, along with some kind cyber-SMEs who have been generous with their time and advice.
My transition is still a work in progress, and I don’t have all the answers to what I want to do in cyber (yet), it is a good reminder that I don’t have to figure out everything right now and I can find the answers along the way, which makes my transition into cyber fun and exciting.
What advice do you have for others considering a move to the cyber industry?
My advice would be, just do it. If you or someone you know have fears about taking that first step, ask yourself why and write down your concerns so you can address them one by one and you will realise that the pros far outweigh the cons.
If someone doesn’t know where to start, I’d suggest doing some online research which doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. You can do simple things like ask ChatGPT questions or concerns you may have, open LinkedIn and read trending articles pertaining to cyber or follow accounts that pique your interest, or reach out to people and ask if they could spare some time and share their experience. This a great door opener – but also don’t be disheartened if you don’t hear back right away.
But most of all, I would say, invest the time to get yourself started. No one will ever get it perfect and starting somewhere and progressing slowly and steadily is better than not starting at all.