The Fortinet Training Institute’s Education Outreach Program partners with organizations that focus on women, veterans, and other populations to drive a skilled, inclusive, and diverse cybersecurity workforce. As part of the program’s focus on veterans, Fortinet works with military and veteran non-profit organizations to provide veterans and military families around the world with access to Fortinet’s industry-recognized training. Through these partnerships, Fortinet is able to help the military community to transition to careers in cybersecurity, helping to fill critical roles that are impacted by the talent shortage.
One of these partners is the Forge Institute which focuses on providing opportunities that help veterans advance in the workforce and develop professionally along the way. As part of the Education Outreach Program, Forge Institute’s fellows have access to the Fortinet Training Institute’s Network Security Expert (NSE) Certification program. We recently spoke with Justin Smith, a fellow at the Forge Institute and military veteran, to learn more about how he is taking advantage of this training and his experience looking to transition from the military into a career in cybersecurity.
I spent six years with the U.S Air Force as a C-130 crew chief, which means I was a general maintainer for the aircraft. If something were to happen in the field, I have the knowledge to fix it so it remains mission capable. As my first duty station, I served in Japan for three years. In November 2019, I moved to Little Rock Air Force Base where I settled down to pursue a career in Cyber/IT. I’ve had the honor of learning different trades during my career, such as aircraft equipment management and major structural maintenance while holding leadership roles within those trades.
I’m currently a Forge Institute fellow, transitioning to be a civilian veteran coming out of the Air Force. As a fellow, I receive coaching and have access to training that corresponds to the industry I have selected. Since I’ve always had a passion for computers, it was easy to narrow my interest to pursue a career in cybersecurity and IT. Since the Forge Institute has a partnership with the Fortinet Training Institute, I have the opportunity to access Fortinet’s training which I’ve taken advantage of and I’m getting Fortinet NSE certified and moving up in levels.
The program has given me access to Fortinet’s cybersecurity training, allowing me to get a better grasp of cyber and network skill sets while learning how Fortinet’s products and solutions work. The training has exposed me to career pathway options within cyber. I now know I have aspirations to pursue a career as a forensic analyst or network security analyst.
I’ve completed NSE levels 1 through 3, giving me a baseline understanding of the threat landscape and the biggest threats organizations face, as well as an understanding of Fortinet’s technology. I’m now working toward getting NSE level 4 certified and aspire to complete all the way to level 7. When I started as a Forge fellow, I heard that the NSE certifications are recognized in the industry. I saw this as an opportunity to gain skills and learn what I need to succeed in being a forensic or network analyst. I also think certifications will help validate that I’ve put in the time and work to learn relevant skills for employers.
During my time in the service, I’ve learned important skills like teamwork, effective communication, and problem-solving while also learning project management and asset security. All these skills translate well into a career in cyber where there are constant challenges and changes. Cyber threats are constantly changing and evolving as adversaries find new ways to cause harm. The military has taught me resilience in the face of adversity and how to put together a game plan and problem-solve regardless of the circumstances. I’ve also learned to be a true leader and as I transition to a civilian will bring these skills to my new career. Rather than panic, I’m able to stay calm and put a plan together to get the results that are needed. These attributes all translate well into the workplace.
For people who are veterans looking to go into cybersecurity or IT, I would encourage them to take advantage of the many programs available to us. Many may feel like they won’t fit in or won’t understand the technology depending on the cyber career path, but they shouldn’t be afraid to get out of their comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to educate yourself and look for resources that can help transition into civilian life. Cybersecurity is the now and the future. This will only continue to be more and more important impacting everyone, so now is a good time to learn about ways to start your career in the space.
Find out more about how Fortinet's Training Advancement Agenda (TAA) and Training Institute programs—including the NSE Certification program, Academic Partner program, and Education Outreach program—are helping to solve the cyber skills gap and prepare the cybersecurity workforce of tomorrow.