Cybersecurity Soft Skills

Twelve Essential Soft Skills for Early-Career Cybersecurity Professionals

These tips come from Kayne McGladrey, CISSP, Field CISO for Hyperproof, and a senior member of the IEEE. He has nearly thirty years of experience in cybersecurity and has served as a CISO and advisory board member. Kayne focuses on the policy, social, and economic effects of cybersecurity lapses to individuals, companies, and the nation. He recently joined the advisory board for Whatcom Community College.

June 7, 2024

As a guest blogger, Kayne McGladrey has written the following as a response to the question: 

“What soft skills are critical as a cybersecurity professional?”

In the realm of cybersecurity, early-career professionals often prioritize the development and demonstration of technical prowess. However, as someone with nearly three decades of experience in cybersecurity leadership roles, I firmly assert that interpersonal skills wield a profound influence over one's career trajectory. Unlike certifications and degrees, which may lose relevance over time, interpersonal skills persist and can be cultivated through deliberate practice. This article sheds light on these often-overlooked attributes, providing a holistic perspective on what it takes to excel in cybersecurity beyond technical acumen. 

1. Adaptability: Rapid technological advancements and evolving threat landscapes necessitate adaptability for cybersecurity novices. As professionals progress, the ability to guide teams through organizational shifts and regulatory changes becomes increasingly vital. 

2. Attention to Detail: Precision is paramount in entry-level cybersecurity roles, where minor oversights can lead to major vulnerabilities. A keen eye for detail ensures thorough monitoring, analysis, and implementation of security measures. 

3. Conflict Resolution: Effective conflict resolution skills are indispensable, especially when navigating disagreements over security controls or risk assessments. These skills become even more critical as professionals advance and engage in interdepartmental collaborations. 

4. Continuous Learning: Given the dynamic nature of the cybersecurity field, a commitment to continuous learning is essential. This habit enables professionals to evolve alongside industry trends, eventually assuming leadership roles or specializing in niche areas. 

5. Critical Thinking: Critical thinking skills empower cybersecurity professionals to evaluate information, assess threats, and communicate effectively with stakeholders. With experience, professionals can leverage critical thinking to lead incident response efforts and develop strategic security plans. 

6. Customer Service Orientation: Understanding and prioritizing user needs is crucial in entry-level cybersecurity roles. Enhanced customer service skills can open doors to managerial positions or consultancy roles down the line. 

7. Decision Making: Entry-level cybersecurity professionals must make informed decisions under pressure, laying the foundation for more strategic decision-making as they progress in their careers. 

8. Ethical Judgment and Integrity: Upholding ethical standards is non-negotiable in cybersecurity, where professionals handle sensitive data and protect against threats. Demonstrating integrity paves the way for leadership roles and fosters a culture of trust within organizations. 

9. Problem Solving: Early-career professionals hone their problem-solving skills by identifying vulnerabilities and responding to incidents. With experience, they tackle more complex challenges, shaping organizational security postures. 

10. Project Management: Effective project management skills are invaluable from the outset of one's cybersecurity career, facilitating the coordination of tasks and teams. Proficiency in this area enables professionals to lead larger projects and oversee critical security initiatives. 

11. Risk Assessment and Management: Identifying and mitigating risks is foundational in cybersecurity. As professionals mature in their roles, they spearhead risk evaluation projects and design comprehensive security strategies. 

12. Time Management: Early-career cybersecurity professionals must master time management to prioritize tasks efficiently. With experience, they juggle larger projects and teams, requiring adept delegation and time allocation. 

As cybersecurity continues to evolve at a relentless pace, the demand for professionals who possess a robust blend of technical and interpersonal skills is increasingly apparent. While technical skills are a prerequisite for many entry-level careers, the ability to adeptly navigate interpersonal dynamics within the workplace can distinguish successful cybersecurity professionals from their peers. This comprehensive approach enables professionals to adapt to changes, manage projects effectively, and lead teams with integrity and insight. Those who invest in developing both technical and interpersonal skills will likely find themselves well-equipped to take on leadership roles and give back to the cybersecurity community. 


To hear more from Kayne McGladry, see his LinkedIn profile where you can access a series of his informative YouTube videos. 

Image of Kayne McGladry from his LinkedIn profile.