Gen Z bringing changes to cybersecurity industry

New industry entrant Rowan Pitt breaks down life in cybersecurity for the Gen Z generation

Posted 15 March 2023 by Christine Horton

Gen Z and Millennials make up 39 percent of the cybersecurity workforce, and their entry pathways into cybersecurity are more varied than in previous generations, according to the Cybersecurity Workforce study. However there is also a difference in how the generations approach challenges, according to new industry entrant, Rowan Pitt, graduate sales engineer at Juniper Networks.

“Technically speaking, any generational gaps are more about mindset,” he said. “The Gen X and Boomer generations approach challenges differently to Millennials and Gen Z, who tend to find solutions that are outside the norm. In comparison, older generations approach problems in a way that comes with experience and process.

“In my experience, younger generations don’t mind adjusting and bending the solution to find a new way of doing things, but older generations frequently hold onto their own unique rigid sensibilities and processes, which can make finding solutions a challenge. Mentoring between generations is a great way to expand mindsets. Being willing to coach others and to let someone who has more experience direct you can help to bridge this gap.”

In today’s multigenerational workplace, he added, each generation brings extremely varied expectations.

“It’s difficult to manage employees from different generations, and this is especially true when cybersecurity is involved,” he said.

Recruitment’s Catch-22

Pitt’s own start in cybersecurity wasn’t straightforward. “After unsuccessful applications to several masters apprenticeships in the IT industry, I made the decision to pursue a legal education because it felt like the next logical step,” he said.

However, he found the entry-level IT job market after he graduated from college intimidating due to the amount of life experience that was listed as a requirement on each job application.

“It’s the catch-22 really of needing a job to gain experience, but needing experience to gain a job, so I think the market really needs to address the issue when recruiting. Established industry professionals with decades of experience have found these listings include experiences that interns would never be able to realistically attain. I persevered but could imagine the experience putting off many talented individuals from ever entering the IT or cyber workforce.”

Pitt pivoted and went back for a Master’s degree. “Out of pure luck, I filled out an application just as I was starting my Master’s programme and the company ended up hiring me. So, I secured a job even though I had already begun my degree. I think the market needs to do more in giving people opportunities,” he said.

Work to do on gender parity

And while remote and hybrid working has made it possible for neurodiverse individuals, or those who are less at ease being in an office setting, to enter the workforce successfully, Pitt believes the industry still has work to do to achieve gender parity.

Juniper Networks’ Rowan Pitt

“As an industry, we are working towards achieving that true parity between men and women. There’s still quite some way to go, but organisations such as Girls Who Code, Girls In Tech, and WISP (Women In Security and Privacy) are making exceptional in-roads by offering more opportunities for the women of tomorrow. However, these organisations can only make so much change on their own and have to be supported by additional policies from within large organisations.”

Between now and 2025, the UK Cybersecurity Council is set to develop cyber career pathways across 16 specialty areas that will map each role’s experience and certification requirements. The goal is to make it simpler for formerly underrepresented groups to enter the workforce, those already working in the field to advance, and companies to increase retention.