Case study

Cyber security engineer — Andy

Andy combined his love of computers with his family connections to the Royal Air Force (RAF) to become a cyber security engineer

What course did you study and where?

I received all of my professional training while serving within the RAF. After joining, they paid for my foundation degree in engineering management from the University of Lincoln. I then received further funding to complete a BEng (Hons) in Electronic Systems Engineering from the University of Portsmouth.

How did you get your job?

I joined the RAF as an ICT technician through the Shrewsbury Armed Forces Careers Office. Following two years as an airman, I successfully applied to become a commissioned officer.

What was the recruitment process like?

The interview process to become a commissioned officer consisted of a three-day selection process (now one day) at RAF College Cranwell in Lincolnshire. My suitability to commission was tested through a series of practical leadership assessments. I was then interviewed and asked questions about my personal life and my motivation to become a commissioned officer. Finally, I was required to pass a medical and fitness assessment before being offered a place on Initial Officer Training (IOT).

Why did this area of work appeal to you?

I have been interested in computing and technology since I was a child, using the internet at home when I was only five years old. Growing up, I developed a passion for tinkering and fixing things. I was naturally drawn to the military due to both of my uncles, my father and grandfather all having served in the RAF. The technical training and opportunities offered by the RAF were a perfect fit.

What does a typical day involve?

I am based at Headquarters Air Command, managing a small team to deliver new cyber capabilities to the RAF. I speak with a range of people, both military and civilian, to understand areas of cyber security weakness. My team and I then identify the best solutions to protect our critical systems and work to implement them, training our people and continually assessing new threats to ensure our solutions are effective.

What training have you received?

Both my foundation and Bachelors degrees were fully funded. I have also completed a Sans cyber security training course in San Diego, which was valued at over £8,000. In addition, the RAF provides funding every year for small training courses, contributing up to £100.

Describe your job in five words.

Exciting, challenging, technical, rewarding, adventurous.

What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

Providing a critical output to the defence of the United Kingdom is extremely rewarding to me, coupled with the sense that I am making a difference in my day-to-day work to protect our key operational systems. I also particularly enjoy the opportunity to lead and manage other people, something I see as a huge privilege and a great responsibility.

What are the challenges?

The world of cyber security is constantly evolving, which makes defending against new and novel attacks extremely challenging. The latest cyber threat intelligence is critical in ensuring the defensive solutions I am implementing mitigate for new and evolving threats.

What have been your career highlights?

My most recent highlight was being promoted. Prior to this, I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively, including to locations in the Middle East and all around the UK. This has given me an appreciation of the positive influence that the UK Armed Forces has around the world.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I joined as a tradesman, employed in the maintenance and repair of air defence radar and radio equipment. The RAF has contracted out this area and evolved my role into one of cyber security. My plan is to continue my professional development and develop increased credibility in cyber security, attaining the rank of group captain at the end of my career.

What do you wish you'd known before you started your job?

Appreciating the importance of emotional intelligence and understanding my own emotions. This would have allowed me to work on my personal development in these areas, which I have subsequently identified as a weakness. Emotional intelligence is essential in a close working environment where not working as team is extremely detrimental.

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