Written by: Lindsay McKay
With many years of hard work and training, both on the job and through cybersecurity courses, your dream of becoming a cybersecurity professional can be achieved. A role that many professionals start in, whether they have years of education or are breaking into the IT industry, is a help desk technician or other supporting IT roles. A strong start in a help desk role can lead to a successful career in IT and cybersecurity as it builds a strong foundation of technical skills and non-technical skills.
Depending on the company and your background, there is a chance you could get your first help desk role without any IT certifications. If this happens, the employer will still expect you to get, at minimum, your CompTIA A+ certification. Earning your A+ certification will also open doors for other roles outside of a help desk technician and is necessary if you want to work your way towards a career in cybersecurity. To get the job, employers expect you to know how to do some simple technical tasks including:
Installing new technologies and teaching end-users how to operate them
Providing remote technical support
Backing up and restoring files
Maintaining operating systems and repairing hardware and software
All these skills can be learned by a general user without the need for prior technical job experience. The help desk role is not easy, and many newcomers to IT want to move on as fast as possible but don’t! You will miss out on valuable learning if you rush off too quickly; many stays in this role for 3-5 years. To succeed in this role, you need strong customer service skills, patience, empathy, the ability to work well under pressure, and time management skills.
As a desk help technician, you will learn many new things—probably the most you will in your entire career—and gain many interesting stories to share. A key thing you will learn, which is an imperative skill to have in cybersecurity and no degree can teach you, is how to effectively communicate with general users about technology and cybersecurity. All the tech know-how does not matter if you cannot communicate with the end-user clearly and simply in a way they can understand.
You will be involved with every new update, installation, troubleshooting, diagnosing, and so much. You are gaining experience that every employer would be happy to see on a resume for a mid-level IT role, junior administrator, data service technician and more.
After a few years on the job, you will want to start thinking about getting more training. You have two options, getting your Security+ certification to move towards a security specialist role or your Network+ certification for a more networks administrator role. There are some major differences between the two options, be sure to do some research and figure out which one works better for your desired career goal. Earning one of these two, or both if you want to be more of a generalist, is only the next step of many to get into cybersecurity. Know it will take time, and there will always be ongoing learning, i.e., intermediate-level cybersecurity certifications like CompTIA CySA+ certification. But, when you put in the effort to create a strong foundation with IT support roles and mid-level roles, you are ahead of the curve, and employers will want to give you a chance.