Industry Trends

Career Transition Into Cybersecurity: A Discussion with Veteran David Rojas

By Al Nasturzio | November 10, 2021

This week as many countries pause to recognize veterans for their service, Fortinet is showcasing a recent graduate of the Fortinet Veterans Program. The program is part of the NSE Training Institute and is one of many initiatives of Fortinet’s Training Advancement Agenda (TAA), aimed at closing the cybersecurity skills gap and helping veterans transition careers.  

David Rojas is a 2021 Fortinet Veterans Program graduate with a completed Network Security Expert (NSE) level 4 certification and an NSE level 6 certification in progress. He offers his perspective on career transition for veterans and on how his military experience has helped his civilian career in cybersecurity.

Can you give us a summary of your military background?

I served eleven years with the Canadian Armed Forces, in the Regular Force. I joined in 2008 following admission into the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean, and the Royal Military College of Canada. I graduated in 2013 as an Armoured Officer. Following our withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, I made the choice to resign my commission and become a Medical Technician. I would continue to serve in this role until my retirement in 2019.

What attracted you to apply for the Fortinet Veterans Program?

Word of mouth at the time. A fellow student in a program I was already enrolled in had mentioned the company name to me, and I had seen the building during my drive to and from work in my area. My cybersecurity career was very much in its infancy, so any additional information that I could gather seemed to be a good opportunity. 

Fortinet NSE Training Helps Expand on Skills Sets

How far did you get into Fortinet’s NSE training and certification? Did you find it useful?

I was studying the materials for the NSE Level 4 certification (while at the same time studying for two other certifications). Given that the Fortinet Veteran’s Program subsidizes the cost of both training and the certification exam, I figured that I should focus on the opportunities that were the most challenging to maximize the opportunity. 

I found the training well-outlined and presented in an easy-to-follow manner. I found that the lab/practical portion of the training to be very useful in cementing some understanding of the material. 

I am now pursuing my NSE 6 certification through Fortinet’s free self-paced training. I am starting with the FortiMail course as it will help me the most in my current position with Shared Services Canada. Fortinet training and certifications are very beneficial to my current role as their solutions are trusted and in use by many levels within the Canadian government.

What do you do now and what does a normal work day look like?

After completing the Fortinet Veterans Program, I was hired right away by Fortinet as a Technical Support Engineer. I now work as an instructor and facilitator for Coding for Veterans; an education and employment platform facilitated through the University of Ottawa and a Fortinet partner. I work remotely, and most of my tasks are clarifying certain cybersecurity concepts for students, contributing to course and program creation, sharpening my own skills, and marking exams and assignments of candidates.  

Like the Fortinet Veterans Program, Coding for Veterans is a no-cost program for veterans and military spouses. Coding for Veterans, in partnership with the University of Ottawa, has developed multiple programs that help veterans and military spouses develop and learn in-demand skills, from website coding to penetration testing, that help them transition from the military to the civilian workforce. Through the skills and professional network that I acquired in both the Coding for Veterans program and the Fortinet Veterans program, I have successfully transitioned to the role of Analyst with Shared Services Canada, and as an instructor and facilitator for Coding for Veterans. Most of my tasks are clarifying certain cybersecurity concepts for students, contributing to course and program creation, sharpening my own skills, and marking exams and assignments for candidates.  

Overall, veterans are a great fit for cybersecurity positions as they work great in a team setting and have a natural understanding of security issues. I would highly recommend programs like this to any veteran or military spouse who is looking to change careers.

While I was in the middle of re-skilling to find employment in the cyber security sector, I was accepted into the Fortinet Veterans Program. I had access to free training and I spoke with members of the team who gave excellent insight about how the program would actually help me land a job within cybersecurity.

Career Transition Into Cybersecurity Through Fortinet NSE

How has your military background helped prepare you for your current role?

Like the military, working within the technology industry involves keeping a large number of tasks in the air—knowing what and when to prioritize certain tasks at certain times so that the “ship” runs smoothly. This skill is indispensable and means that veterans require very little on-the-job supervision. It is one of the reasons they are very successful in cybersecurity. 

Why should companies hire graduates of the Fortinet Veterans Program and veterans in general for cybersecurity roles?

Veterans are people—and just like people, they walk down all sorts of roads, and value different things. The Fortinet Veteran’s Program gives those veterans a chance to apply their diverse, intense skillset into something the world desperately needs: cybersecurity talent. What your average graduate from college or university may have in academic background, they do not have the amount of real-world experience that veterans have. Security isn’t just a tick-in-the-box for veterans, it’s an attitude. They have an appreciation for the value of security at an organization, and know all too well what happens when something else is prioritized in its stead.

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.