#NAW2023 Developing Cyber Security Talent: Mark Misztal, Cyber Security Integrated Degree apprentice
Gloucestershire is rapidly becoming a regional force in cyber security employment, expertise and training, thanks to a number of leading cyber security companies calling the county home, as well as the ambitious Golden Valley development project with Cyber Central at its heart.
The demand for skilled cyber professionals is growing within the sector, and more individuals with interest in technology are becoming aware of the opportunities it presents to develop rewarding and secure futures. Securing an apprenticeship position is one of the great ways into the industry as it combines academic learning with hands-on experience in the real life industry environment.
In the lead up to National Apprenticeship week we met up with Mark Misztal, a Cyber Security Graduate apprentice at CDS Defence and Security to get his insights into the industry and learn how the apprenticeship programme has been supporting his professional ambitions.
What made you choose to do an apprenticeship?
Like many people who are looking to further their education, it can be a challenge to deciding the right path. There are advantages to both a traditional university experience and an apprenticeship but for myself I found the advantages of an apprenticeship outweigh the university experience. To name a few advantages:
- You do not have any student debt
- You get hands on experience
- You get paid
- You have an opportunity to develop people skills and create relationships
- There is a good chance that you have a job at the end of the apprenticeship, or you will find it easier to apply elsewhere since you have experience in the industry!
How did you find your employer and apply for the apprenticeship?
My method of finding an employer consisted of contacting cyber businesses in my area. You’d be surprised how many businesses would like to take an apprentice on board. Ultimately, CDS DS was suggested to me by Gloucestershire College since there were keen the get an apprentice. After reading the job description, I understood the role would fit me and I put myself forward. To my surprise, after two interviews I was able to secure my position!
Tell us a bit about your day-to-day job role as an apprentice
Currently I am a part of the Cyber Security & Information Assurance Team (CS&IA) where I provide consultancy to clients. This role can vary from creating or reviewing security documentation to something more technical such as assessing systems of their security risks and providing advice and guidance to help secure them to an acceptable level. Not to forget communicating with customers and building and relationship. It’s surprising how much trust and responsibility I am given in my role, and it truly makes me feel like I am apart of the team rather than a hinderance that some people may think when applying for an apprenticeship.
In terms of study, time is set aside each week that is solely allocated to study. During this time, I can revise what I have learn during class, complete assignments, and work on skills that would help during my day-to-day tasks. There is a minimum time that I must meet to ensure I have been given enough time to study. This really help with the work life balance! Once the workday is over, chances are, I don’t need to any more studying.
What is the best thing about your apprenticeship?
Truly, the best thing about the apprenticeship is the real-world experience. Getting hands on with work and seeing how things are done is so rewarding and eye opening. Especially for a subject such as cyber where it is almost endless, I am exposed to so many different aspects of it which you would not be able to experience in the classroom. Other great aspects include working with likeminded people who are passionate about the subject and are willing to give a helping hand to ensure I am on the right path.
How has your line manager in the workplace and assessor supported you through your apprenticeship?
At CDS DS, everyone is supportive and understanding. No matter what problem I may have or silly question, someone is willing to help! Support is provided throughout on a monthly basis with my line manager where we would discuss my current work, goals and future objectives. It is also an opportunity to raise any issues or concerns that I may have.
Pretty much the same can be said about the college. The trainers are enthusiastic and keen to help. A quarterly review is conducted to ensure that I am on track with my learning and to raise any issues that I may have.
That’s not to say I am confined to these meetings. I can get in touch with anyone either from work or the college if I need any help with anything!
What are your career ambitions for after you finish your apprenticeship?
This one is always a challenging question – especially for cyber due to its size. Despite all the exposure I have had to the industry, there is a lot more to try and learn. CDS DS is a growing company with ambitious goals that are currently expanding in the technical assurance and digital forensics area. I’d like to spend time in these sectors and further develop my skill set before I decide on a final role that I’d like to pursue.
Would you recommend doing an apprenticeship in your industry?
Absolutely! The best part of an apprenticeship is the work experience. The content that you learn in the classroom can be reinforce in the real world. Personally, this is a method of learning that I enjoy and works for me. But it also works the other way. You learn just as much in the workplace, and you may find yourself bringing that knowledge back into the classroom and having interesting and in-depth conversations among peers.
Cyber is also a fast-moving industry that’s ever changing. You may be exposed to the latest and greatest at work which otherwise you may not have the chance to see or learn about in the classroom.
Furthermore, an apprenticeship is also a great way to develop communication skills and become more comfortable working with people and as a team. It’s also a great way to create relationships in the industry that may help during your career.
What advice can you give to someone looking for an apprenticeship?
If you are considering an apprenticeship, it may be nerve wracking. Whether you have experience or not, you are joining to learn. Show that you are ambitious and learn on your own accord. There are a whole host of free resources, courses, and certificates that you could begin to work towards. You can then list this on your CV to help stand out from the crowd.
Gloucestershire College offers a wide range of IT, cyber security and software development apprenticeships taught out of our bespoke training centre ADA (Advanced Digital Academy) Visit this page to find out more.
If you are a business looking to recruit an apprentice or upskill your staff via apprenticeships, our Employer Training & Apprenticeships team will advise on the right training programmes for you and your team. Contact them today to find out more via: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 0345 155 2020
Awarded ‘Gloucestershire’s Apprenticeship Training Provider of the Year 2022’ Gloucestershire College is committed to delivering excellence for our apprentices and employers.