Ex-snipers slot into cybersecurity roles


THE CHIEF of Defence Intelligence, Adrian Bird, says Britain’s economic future depends on its stance on recruitment and staff retention.

Bird was speaking not to business leaders, but to members of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on reappraising UK defence intelligence priorities. Building strong teams “requires us to look beyond just technical skills”, he said. Recruitment should focus on individuals who can bring diverse perspectives and new ideas to bear on complex problems.

Governments, businesses and industries could benefit from building cognitively diverse teams that reflect the communities they serve, Bird believes. Social impact company WithYouWithMe has studied talent pools that include neurodivergent individuals, veterans, and refugees — and the data back-up Bird’s assertions.

Neurodivergent individuals score higher than the general population for digital skills, spatial awareness, and digital symbol coding. Military veterans have a similarly impactful role in overcoming the technical skills shortage.

Through data-driven measurement of an individual’s potential, the study found that 67 percent of servicemen and women demonstrate similar aptitudes to the best software engineers, and 85 percent demonstrate intermediate — or better — tech skills.

Former snipers are proven to make excellent cyber penetration testers because of their pattern-recognition and abstract reasoning skills.

Given Bird’s focus on technological capability, it seems that neurodivergent individuals and veterans — as just two sample groups under-represented in the tech workforce — could be crucial to success.

Current hiring practices disadvantage these groups. individuals from making it through the recruitment process. The workforce needs to be diverse, but relevant skills aren’t always captured in a CV. So how do candidates demonstrate their qualifications and experience?

In Canada, the Cyber Workforce Enablement Programme (CWEP) initiative is seeking out technology-trained “apprentices” to fill critical needs in IT.

It initially focussed on providing veterans and military families with digital apprenticeships in the Canadian Government — and WithYouWithMe has found places for 140 veterans and military families. The programme has now expanded to include other under-represented groups, including indigenous peoples and refugees.

Barriers are being broken down by some UK employers, including Capita, Northrop Grumman, Atos, Fujitsu, Leonardo and Leidos.

The modern workforce requires diverse talent if it is to meet organisational objectives. There is a largely-untapped pool of diverse talent waiting in the wings, prepared to upskill and step into high-demand tech roles.

All it takes is a commitment to skills-based hiring, acknowledging that a person’s potential can outweigh a university degree.

Tom Larter is CEO of WithYouWithMe