Business & Technology

Learning Cybersecurity by Reaching NSE Level 8: An Expert’s Perspective

By Rob Rashotte | January 11, 2022

Reaching level 8 in the Fortinet Network Security Expert (NSE) program requires some time, ambition, and the desire to get certified for cybersecurity. Students and professionals must follow a structured pathway designed to teach the necessary real-world skills for a successful career in cybersecurity. The course structure is as follows:

  • Levels 1–3 focus on cybersecurity awareness and are suitable for anyone interested in learning some basics. 

  • Levels 4–6 dive deeper into technical aspects and provide Cybersecurity Technical Certification

  • NSE 7 identifies advanced skills in deploying, administering, and troubleshooting security solutions. 

  • NSE 8 is the Cybersecurity Expert Certification designation that identifies comprehensive and expert knowledge of network security design, configuration, and troubleshooting for complex networks.

While completing all of these cybersecurity courses requires plenty of "elbow grease," the hard work will pay off. Don’t just take our word for it – learn how an actual Fortinet NSE graduate benefited from reaching the highest level of certification.

Learning Cybersecurity with Fortinet NSE: A Graduate’s Perspective

People who reach level 8 certification gain the validation of Fortinet Network Security Expert and the prestige and benefits that such an advanced certification can offer. Luke Titmus, NSE 8 and Director of Engineering Services at Switchshop Limited in Hitchin, England, shares his perspective about his experience achieving level 8 and what it has meant for his career.

What are some key takeaways from the cybersecurity landscape today?

I’m seeing a lot more fragmentation and decentralization of the perimeter, which makes it a lot harder for IT teams to control what’s on their networks. From new devices at the edge, centralized data centers being moved to the cloud, and new applications, everything is expanding. We’re seeing remote work remain a requirement, which puts a heavy emphasis on securing outside of the traditional network. Therefore, we see a lot of discussions and implementations with customers about things like how to scale and secure remote work and a few making the step towards zero trust strategies.

How does the cyber skills gap factor into your day-to-day work?

I do some of the recruiting for Switchshop, especially for the engineering team. With one area being the cybersecurity side of our business, we must work hard to find people to keep up with the demand of our customers. In the past, many organizations would have had generalist IT technicians, IT managers, or network security engineers configure their systems with more traditional firewalls, networking, and systems. With the sophistication and evolution of the landscape today, networks are becoming larger, and are in greater need of skills to manage and scale effectively. Threats are becoming much more advanced, meaning we need people with more technical skills. However, the world is struggling to keep up. Fortinet’s NSE Institute is helping to bring more people into the field.

How do certifications play a part in your hiring process?

We like to look for people that already have cybersecurity certifications. It is a great way to really know the background and knowledge someone is bringing to their role and our customers appreciate it. Some of the technologies that we use are common across multiple vendors—it’s just a slightly different way of doing it in each case. For example, the training that many of the Switchshop staff obtained from Fortinet NSE Institute courses has been invaluable. This real-world experience combined with our own company mentoring is a great combination. The training is a great way for someone to quickly progress into gaining more technical skills.

What was the process like for you to achieve NSE 8 certification?

Previous knowledge in networking is invaluable because it underpins network security. If you understand networking, then you can understand how traffic flows through the firewall. I spent many weeks going through the NSE 6 level training to understand every single topic because it covers peripheral technologies that make up the Security Fabric. Later, when I did the exam, I was still nervous, but I ended up with a good score because the entire NSE curriculum provides a solid, broad grounding for success, alongside my experience in the field. For those wondering, I am amazed at how much I’ve managed to learn and retain. I think anyone else could do it if they are curious enough and apply themselves.

How has your certification helped with your career?

Every single level in the Fortinet NSE Certification program is essential, and it all culminates up to level 8, which is the highest level. It gave me a great leg up in my career and has allowed me to take on more advanced projects as I became qualified and experienced in those areas over time. It has been exciting to take on more new and challenging projects. The certification and training also allowed me to work with more prestigious customers and has earned me a leadership role within Switchshop. The advanced skill set of the whole Switchshop Engineering team has been instrumental in opening doors with customers in relation to complex cyber security projects.

What advice would you give someone who’s considering NSE 4 level certification or beyond?

Definitely do it! Be inquisitive, because that's the best way to learn. Also, the more you practice and solve challenges in a safe environment, it will help you later in the real world. Having a real thirst for understanding and learning is probably the most important thing in my book. The NSE Training Institute is the educational path that guides your interest to help you get there.

Find out more about how Fortinet’s Training Advancement Agenda (TAA) and NSE Training Institute programs, including the Certification ProgramSecurity Academy Program and Veterans Program, are helping to solve the cyber skills gap and prepare the cybersecurity workforce of tomorrow.