Serene’s Journey Into Tech

Over the past three years, cyber crime has surged by 600%, leading to a growing demand for skilled cyber security professionals in Canada. The increasing integration of digital tools and generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) has opened up more vulnerabilities, creating opportunities for hackers to exploit weak points and target organizations. As we move towards a future centred around digital advancements, companies increasingly recognize the necessity for cyber protection, which provides a unique opportunity for those interested in pursuing a career in the cyber security field.

Thinking about a career in cyber security? Follow along as we unfold the story of a recent graduate, Serene Hasan, who transitioned into cyber security after navigating through burnout in her previous role as a financial advisor and a pandemic-induced layoff. Serene was accepted into the Cyber Security Bootcamp at Lighthouse Labs as part of the ICT Boost Initiative, an impact initiative led by Lighthouse Labs and funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program. This program empowers and supports Canada's growing tech sector by removing barriers and equipping people from equity-deserving communities with the skills and training to launch their careers in tech. The Bootcamp allowed Serene to gain the skillsets needed to transition into an entry-level cyber security role. Lighthouse Labs’ curriculum seeks to empower learners with technical skills while encouraging collaboration and a forward-thinking mindset.

Before Pursuing a Career in Cyber Security

Serene worked as a financial advisor in the banking industry for over five years before transitioning careers. She was unexpectedly laid off just a month after starting her new job during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experiencing burnout and a layoff, she decided to take this as an opportunity to pursue a new career path.

At first, Serene was still figuring out which career path to pursue. She worked with Achev, an organization that provides employment services, to assess her strengths and weaknesses through personality tests and career assessments. Achev's evaluation highlighted her analytical skills and suggested a career in the tech industry could be a good fit for her, so Serene first began working in a tech support role to gauge her interest in the industry. Not long after, her Achev advisor raised the idea of pursuing a cyber security career path and brought to her attention Lighthouse Labs’ Cyber Security Bootcamp.

Overcoming Doubts: Serene’s Path to a New Career

“[I experienced] self-doubt. [As a financial advisor] I deal[t] with people, not software. But the thing is that self-doubt goes away with discovery. So I did a lot of research mainly [through watching] YouTube videos, [enrolling in] free courses, [and] learning the basics of cybersecurity. And that's where my fear went away - when I started learning it…[And it occurred to me that] this is something that I could see myself doing.”

As part of Serene’s research to determine whether a cyber security career path was suitable for her, she also reached out to a Lighthouse Labs’ advisor who invited her to Demo Day, an online event where bootcamp graduates present their final project. At Demo Day, she was able to chat with a Lighthouse Lab graduate and discuss the cyber security curriculum and support system of teachers and mentors. Serene also looked into the cyber security curriculum pack, and free courses on Lighthouse Labs’ website. She approached her manager about the fully funded opportunity she received from the ICT Boost Initiative and was able to receive time off from work to enroll in the program.

Vulnerable data exists in any industry – from healthcare to government to banking, no space is safe from hackers. Cyber security professionals are needed in all sectors to act as certified ethical hackers and protect businesses.

Roles within the cyber security field include incident responders, network administrators, cyber security analysts, or security researchers. There are various types of cyber security, including critical infrastructure, network, cloud security, IT security, and more.

Here are some of the cyber security jobs you can expect to land at the entry-level stage:

  • Security Analyst
  • Implementation Specialist
  • Technical Support Specialist
  • Security Researcher
  • Business Systems Analyst

The average cyber security analyst starts their career making about $60,000 annually in Canada1. Mid-career cyber security analysts make around $87,000 on average in Canada2.

What advice would you give to someone considering making a similar career change but might be hesitant or unsure of where to start?

“[A] piece of advice would be to have a good support system behind you. You can't do it alone. You're going to [experience] self-doubt because you're making a big career change, especially if you were a senior at your company, and now you're going to start [at an entry-level role].”

From the start of Serene’s journey, it was clear that she needed support to navigate this unprecedented time in her life. Collaborating closely with Achev, she identified her strengths and with the help of their employment services, Serene realized that cyber security would be an ideal fit. Organizations like Achev can provide individuals with the opportunity to discover a career path that aligns with their strengths and interests.

Lighthouse Labs welcomes individuals without coding experience or a tech background to build on their skill set and transition to the tech industry. Serene recognizes how her extensive support system of classmates, instructors, mentors, and student success coordinators at Lighthouse Labs, were vital to her success within the bootcamp. During her bootcamp journey, Serene gained the technical and soft skills – and notably, the confidence – to succeed in the workforce as an ethical hacker who can approach complex problems in the real world.

Serene graduated from the Cyber Security program at Lighthouse Labs in February 2023. She continues to be employed with Sherweb, the company she first started with in her tech journey, but now in a new role that harnesses the new skills she gained from the Cyber Security Bootcamp. In the future, she hopes to combine her passion for AI with cyber security. She sees herself launching her own company at some point, establishing herself as a leader in the tech industry.

While the ICT Boost Initiative is now full and no longer accepting applications for fully funded programs, Lighthouse Labs continues to make tech a source of opportunity for all by offering a range of financing options to ensure finances are not a barrier in your learning journey. Read about how you can finance your career transition to tech in the Financial Guide. Ready to launch your very own tech career? Take the first step by coming to our next Cyber Security Info Session.

Fully Funded Reskilling opportunities are offered as part of the ICT Boost Initiative. Funded partly by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.

1 Based on Payscale data last updated on October 2, 2023
2 Based on Payscale data last updated on October 20, 2023