Making the transition to civilian life is one of the toughest challenges facing military veterans. For many, it’s hard to imagine how what they’ve learned and trained for during their years of service can translate into a civilian career. Furthermore, the process of job hunting, interviewing, and successfully on-boarding into a new career setting can be frustrating and mysterious, especially those who joined up right out of college or high school.
Nevertheless, we know from experience that former military personnel often develop into outstanding cybersecurity professionals. With this in mind, we initiated the FortiVets program in 2013 with a charter to recruit and assist veterans seeking to make the transition to a post-service career in cybersecurity.
One of the more surprising aspects of the FortiVets program is that it was started and continues to operate as part of the Fortinet Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) organization. We got involved because Fortinet MSSP partners frequently asked us to refer qualified job candidates to them. This generated the idea of setting up a cybersecurity professional training and referral program focused on a population that we knew came well-prepared for successful careers in cybersecurity—military veterans.
The FortiVets program contains three main elements:
Make Veterans Aware of Opportunities in Cybersecurity
Fortinet works with the various branches of military services and the U.S. Department of Labor to evangelize the FortiVets program and encourage veterans to apply skills and disciplines they acquired in the military to cybersecurity roles. The military offers terrific preparation for cybersecurity work.
Not only do many military people perform highly technical work during their service, but their training also teaches them to operate effectively under pressure, take responsibility for decisions and actions that affect others, and set and meet critical objectives. In many instances, however, military professionals are unaware of how well their experience has prepared them for success in civilian cybersecurity roles. FortiVets strives to bridge the gap between military service and success in the civilian world.
Technical Training Focused on Achieving Cybersecurity Certification
Veterans joining the FortiVets program have backgrounds that range from world-class expertise in cybersecurity strategy and operations to non-security-specific work with technologies that can be easily transferred to cybersecurity missions with some additional training.
The key here is to provide program participants with the knowledge and certifications that employers recognize as highly desirable for deployment in their businesses. The fact that many exiting military cybersecurity professionals have U.S. government security clearance is likewise very much a plus for many employers.
At a minimum, we enroll participants in Fortinet Network Security Expert (NSE) Program training so that they can gain Level 1 certification. With more than 100,000 individuals certified, NSE training and certification is highly sought after by many employers.
We also help more advanced participants acquire Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and other high-level certifications, including completing all eight levels of NSE training and certification as a part of an internship with participating partners.
Soft Skills for Job Hunting and Interviewing
Resume writing, building a LinkedIn profile, networking, interviewing, salary negotiations, and simply understanding how the hiring process works can be a new and daunting process for many military veterans. The soft skills element of the FortiVets program goes beyond standard job hunting savvy training to include unique elements designed for military veterans transitioning to civilian careers.
To begin, we help every participant put together a personal “battlecard” that goes beyond a standard resume. This battlecard presents job candidates as a complete person—life objectives, interests (not strictly job-related but significant personal information), and photos of participants in and out of uniform—all of which help employers visualize them playing a role in their organizations. We also work hard on interview preparation, taking participants through both typical “hiring manager” interviews as well as intimidating technical peer panel interviews.
Logistics and Results
At this point I should also mention that the FortiVets program also operates at no cost to enrollees or the employers. Fortinet’s MSSP organization has dedicated two staff members to run the program. The team lead is a recently retired military veteran, providing a relatable experience to new candidates. It’s very much a by-veterans-for-veterans operation.
To date, 114 veterans have participated in FortiVets since its founding. 56 have already found jobs in the cybersecurity field, with the remainder either currently enrolled or transitioning to new job roles. In addition, 64 Fortinet MSSP partners support the program and are providing a rapidly growing pool of employers for FortiVet graduates.
In classic Silicon Valley fashion, FortiVets is one of those start-up efforts that began when someone noticed a demand for an undeveloped offering and then moved to provide it. Even though Fortinet does not generate any revenue from FortiVets, we are very pleased about how the program benefits flow to partners and customers and serves to fill the critical cybersecurity skills gap many employers are now facing. It’s also one of the best ways we know to thank veterans for their service while building them a bright future.