SafeStack stands with NZTalent

Pledging to hire based on skills rather than qualifications to grow our industry

Today I’m proud to share that SafeStack is standing with some outstanding New Zealand companies to talk about our talent shortage and declare that we believe in choosing the right talent for the job.

We are declaring that we do not require a traditional tertiary qualification for a range of skills-based roles within our company.

We never have. We never will.

Security needs more than just qualifications

While formal education can give you a world of skills and experiences, for the security industry in particular, it isn’t our defining talent.

When NZTalent contacted us to get involved we didn’t need to think. This is something we believe in and has been a hot topic in the cyber security industry for sometime.

There is a massive push in the security industry for qualifications and certificates. An expectation that our next generation will have somehow formalised the things that most of the existing industry learned the old fashioned way.

We are hoping that somehow, these certificates and qualifications will prepare our new recruits for a job that is 30% skills and 70% mindset.

You have a degree though! and certificates!

Yes I do.

I have a degree in Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence and a couple of letters based security certificates from my days as an auditor.

I studied my degree because I wanted to learn to build artificially intelligent robots and gain some experiences I could never have had in my home town. I didn’t study with a job in mind. (Who doesn’t want a robot army?)

I got into the security industry like many others through serendipity. My mindset and circumstances gave themselves to seeing security issues and knowing how to navigate them. Moving to a role in security let me use these talents without getting fired or into more serious trouble.

Some of my peers, best friends and best staff members don’t have degrees. They are not as old as you’d think. They are curious, technical and down right devious at times. They have amazing minds and lots and lots of years of getting stuck in.

So how do we create those mindsets?

That’s a tough question.

SafeStack supports organisations like Hackers Helping Hackers who help get people from diverse groups out to conferences into the community. Forming community links is an amazing gateway to jobs and support.

We admire and respect organisations such as InfoSect in Canberra and the dozens of individuals and teams who give their time every year to run events, capture the flag competitions and mentoring schemes (such as Kiwicon, BSides and more).

But to foster the mindset we need at scale? That’s not so easy.

Enabling and encouraging our younger generations to think a little like a devious person would be a good start. When you live a life in a strict set of rules and afraid to misbehave, you forget how to.

Children have a natural gift for breaking rules and seeing unseen potential in systems. They are curious and experimental.

How about we start by encouraging more of that?

So where from here?

SafeStack will continue to hire people outside of the normal groups. We don’t care what qualifications you have but we care a lot about how you think and how you communicate.

New Zealand has less than 500 listed professionals in security roles (that includes penetration testing, security consultancy, leadership and internal practicioner roles).

Now my maths skills might be rusty but I don’t think we have enough… even for our small country.

Being open to hiring the right people, not just the ones with the right qualifications allows us to grow that number based on skills, mindset and experience. We can move closer to the 5000 security professionals we probably need to actually keep our people, systems and data safe.

Today we are standing up to say that’s how SafeStack operates and how we think our country needs to behave if we are to grow into the innovative leaders we aspire to be.

Will you stand with us?

For more information, check out

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