He Launched His New Career as Head of Information Security

Jake Barker left the Army in January 2018 to work for Redington, an investment consultancy. He shares how he achieved this senior position.

What was the highlight of your military career?
My highlight was probably a six-month close-combat tour of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, in support of Special Forces. I went on to be commended for my leadership and bravery by the Prime Minister.

Why did you leave the Army?
I got medically discharged after injuring myself in late 2015.

What steps did you take as part of your transition?
I was in the unique position of having lots of time on my hands, which is probably the sole benefit of being medically discharged! This meant I had plenty of time to network and learn new skills. I started by looking at the full range of options, from consulting to self-employment, so I could get a better idea of what was out there.

What OA services did you use?
I initially attended the OA Employment Symposium in London, hosted by Deloitte. It gave me a really great perspective on what jobs were out there, particularly beyond the standard consulting, insurance, and finance roles that most officers seem to get into. From there, I followed up with a one-to-one interview with an OA career consultant.

How did you get your first job after leaving the Armed Forces?
Networking and learning. Investing in networking got my foot in the door, investing in learning and upskilling got me the role.

Why did you decide to go into cyber security?
I got into cyber security because it was something I was really interested in. I wanted to work in a really tech-focused industry, where my previous security experience and mind set would be valuable.

What skills or experience did you need to get into this sector/industry/role?
During resettlement I gained the Information Security Management Principles (CISMP), CompTIA qualifications, the Investment Management Certificate (IMC), PRINCE2, and Agile. I also became a Chartered Manager.

Were there any barriers to work and how did you address them?
I had no previous experience in cyber security, having been in the infantry for seven years. But I did have a lot of experience in security, counter-intelligence, and reconnaissance. I recognised my lack of cyber security experience was a barrier, but I positioned myself as a different type of leader within cyber security – one who had a different set of skills and experiences.

What transferable skills that you gained in the military do you in your current role?
There is a huge demand for leadership and communication amongst cyber security professionals, particularly as the Board are getting more and more involved in information security decisions in 2018. You need to be able to communicate well to them and have the integrity to stand your ground.

What do you really enjoy about your role and are there any downsides?
Redington is a small company and it’s a great feeling to have a purpose, and know that the decisions I make affects Redington in real-time. I don’t have the “small cog” feeling that I did whilst I was in the Army. The downsides are that the hours can be long and I have a commute, but I manage my own time and tend to work at home one to two days a week. The other bonus comes in the summer, when I get to wear shorts and a T-shirt to work.

What does a typical day look like?
I usually get in at seven am, which is a bit unusual even for finance in the City, but I like to get in early and leave early. I’ll look at the daily threats, then collaborate with the infrastructure team and the Chief Technology Officer. There is no real typical day, so I could easily be with clients, running a workshop on social engineering, working on a project, auditing suppliers, or researching new developments in the industry.

What advice would you give to Service leavers looking to get into cyber security?
If you’re looking to get into cyber security, or financial services, I would strongly advise you to be as selfish as possible during your resettlement. Use your time to network and complete training courses. With networking you need to be expanding beyond the usual ex-military networks to really find the interesting tech companies you’ve probably never heard of.

Did your employer have any concerns about hiring a veteran?
I was the first Service leaver to join Redington, and it was a real battle to translate my skills and explain exactly what I did in the Army. I had to dispel a number of myths about the Army and they were genuinely concerned I’d just come in and shout orders at people! After a record six interviews, including with the CEO, I got in and I’m pleased to say that it’s been successful so far – we are now looking to recruit more ex-military in the future.

How do you start a career in cyber security with no tech experience?

Find out in the OA webinar with Jake Barker, on Tuesday 18th September.

Register now.