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Which one: Web Development, Cyber Security, Digital Forensics, IT Consulting?

I've looked into these 4 fields/jobs, read about and watched videos on them and even took a course or two on some (basic intro level courses). They all seem very interesting. Currently I'm working in the web development field and I like it but also want to try the others as well. I think this is a great platform to ask, does anyone work in these fields? If so: why do you like the field, what made you chose it, whats the best part about it, and what advice do you have for someone wanting to get into this field/learn more (maybe how you started out)? The only ones I've had the most experience with is web dev and digital forensics since I am an IST major going into my last semester. #technology #computer-science #stem #digitalforensics #cybersecurity #consulting


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Craig’s Answer

Hi Sam,

The best thing about the IT world is that there are plenty of opportunities to work in different areas and move between them. As a web developer are you familiar with security best practices for designing web applications? Are you aware of things like denial of service attacks or SQL injection attacks that can impact your web application, and how to protect against them? These two areas complement each other really well and can help expose you to new concepts and opportunities for you to expand your skill set.

After you've decided what to specialize in you can continue expanding your sphere of influence and work to become a subject matter expert in your field. You know you're on the right path when people have a question about web application security and they say "go talk to Sam!".

After you're comfortable with your level of knowledge and experience you can look into IT consulting and even starting your own business if that's what you're interested in. Make sure to apply yourself early and take opportunities when they arise, even if you feel a little intimidated or out of your depth. Dont be afraid to try new things if you find one area doesnt interest you as much as you thought it would.

Try looking for some more education opportunities in your area such as part time courses, or even some unofficial sources like Khan Academy or YouTube training tutorials. There's a ton of good (and free!) information for all topics online, you just have to make the effort and do it.

Regards,
Craig.

Hi Craig, thank you for the advice! Yes, I have learned about SQL injection attacks and how stored procedures can prevent them, ECB and CBC, certificate authorities. Definitely all very interesting topics! Sam S.

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Rob’s Answer

Of the alternatives meeting your interests, I can't help but be sure you understand the exciting nature of the cyber security business. I look at this way - in many professions, our goal is to understand a customer need and figure how to meet the customer need in a differentiated way which will provide a profit stream for our own company or the company for whom we work. The challenges are many as there are alot of smart people out there and you want to work in an environment where your innovative spirit can thrive in order for you to dream, create concepts, deliver prototypes, gain funding for your idea and deliver. All good. Now, consider the premise of a career in cyber security. Here, the premise is there are alot of smart people out there - but a small percentage of them are motivated for evil, not for good. Therefore, your challenge is not limited to creating a differentiated idea and delivering a differentiated product, your challenge is to be one of those brightest people who not only have extraordinary skills to differentiate, you have also declared yourself as dedicated to good, against evil. Sort of the modern day, technical equivalent of dedicating yourself to the police force to protect your fellow citizens where you are willing to stand up for good and thwart evil. If you see yourself as an innovator and like the association with protecting your fellow citizens from those with evil intent, I suspect every day in the life of cyber security will be rewarding.

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Stephen’s Answer

Hi Sam,
You have picked 4 great fields that all have tremendous job opportunities. Cyber Security is one of the hottest markets because of the recent uptick in cyber attacks on companies. I see you already have experience with Web Development, so learning more about how to "harden" your code to protect against Cyber attacks would be great to learn. It will teach you, attack vectors hackers go after and how you protect against it. Learning these skills will allow you to apply them as a web developer or as someone consulting or working within a company advising developers ways to "harden" their code to protect against attacks.

Advice I was give everyone is to find something you are passionate about and focus on what it takes to make a career out of it. I wish you the best of luck in whatever you decide, but I'm sure whatever you do you will be great at it!

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David’s Answer

I started out in web development when the web was first starting out. At the time, I thought it sounded like the best area for future opportunities. The advice I received at the time from my mentor was that the real future was in indexing or providing a search to the web based content. Fast forward a few years and you have Google. So, I think that was pretty good advice.

As for me, I have been a generalist in IT for many years and worked in a variety of fields leading teams to deliver major programs. In the last few years, I have spent a lot of time working side by side with CyberSecurity teams since I have taken on Data Security and Data Governance roles. It along with digital forensics will be in high demand in the coming years. So, they are both great for job security (no pun intended). If you have an interest or passion in those areas, that would be a great place to start. If you want to lead or be a consultant in the future, you can stack on other capabilities and broaden your scope to handle more scenarios.

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Chuck’s Answer

I've started in Cyber Security decades ago before they even called it that. To me, this is an exciting field and has evolved over the decades but there are still so many new things to learn and master everyday. Back in the days, it was just simple networking equipment and bolt on security as an afterthought. Today, we have fully staffed separate departments devoted to securing the internet for e-commerce. I think of it as keeping out the bad guys while allowing for safe and easy web experience. This can range from protecting online banking, to filtering out spam email, to preventing hackers from taking over your website, or to stopping bots from buying out all the hottest concert tickets and later reselling it at 200% mark up. I cannot think of any successful company that doesn't have a web presence and they all need some kind of cyber security. The avalanche of ransomware and malware news in the headlines almost daily guarantees high demand for more Cyber Security engineers for years to come. It is a pretty lucrative career especially for someone with a lot of experience. However, at the same time, it's also a great career for someone just getting started because there are so many new things to learn every day and if you invest the time, you can quickly advance through this career much faster than many other fields. Most importantly is this career generally allows for working remotely and flexible time so you can have a great work/life balance that's so important nowadays.

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Peregrin’s Answer

As everyone has pointed out, all are great options and they will all continue to be high demand fields.

I look at them this way (for what it is worth):

Web Development - good to know, but unless you really want to develop webpages all the time, probably a skill to have and use the knowledge of when you need it.

Cyber Security / Digital Forensics - These will only continue to grow and be more critical and highly valued as the world continues to digitize.

IT Consulting - This is a career that could allow you to do all of this. A lot of Cyber Security and Digital Forensics are done by IT Consultants.

Hope this helped.

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RUI’s Answer

I think cyber security would be the future with lots of opportunities for R&D and projects to be done.

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Attique’s Answer

I can answer to IT Consulting given I have worked in Academia labs and then in Engineering, so I like to talk to clients, learn the business model and how i can transform it to make it more efficient. Currently, I am a functional consultant and i enjoy talking to my clients, explaining them any deficiencies in their current process and help them streamline it. Only downside is that i tend to spend a lot of time on work and travel so I never really get to sit at home and see the family, but it comes with good perks as salary is competitive and benefits on the side.

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Pawel’s Answer

The four fields you mentioned are actually quite different and it is really hard to tell which one suits you best. Since you are already working in the WebDev and looking for something else, it probably means that it isn't exactly your kettle of fish. Cyber Security is really interesting and rewarding, both financially and challenging, but the learning never stops in this field - you need to have a solid background of computers basics (operating systems, networking etc.) and then only keep learning. If this sounds good for you, I would suggest to pursuit this career - as others mentioned previously, you can always change it on the way and what you've learnt till then will surely benefit you.

Best of luck!
P

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Dallin’s Answer

If you look at the news for any amount of time you will not be hard pressed to see stories about malware, ransomware, cyber crime, etc, with some of the most high profile companies suffering huge losses due to this and people potentially having their sensitive information in the hands of criminals. This is an important field which in my opinion will have high demand and high reward.

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Chiranjib’s Answer

Hi Sam
It's a great question and very relevant in today's era. I strongly believe that technology is changing so thick and fast that we are almost in the midst of another industrial revolution! I think most of the professionals are spot on with their answers, I'll just add some of my perspectives.

Computer science is a huge field and the professionals frequently switch areas through upskilling and cross-skilling.

I can talk about IT consulting as I have experience around it. This field is more about understanding the client's business and helping them out so that they can fulfil their business goals. A lot of time needs to be spent in the client premises to understand their business and advise them around IT strategies and solutions.

Web Development - (Assuming full stack here) - Full-stack web development is in great demand right now.

Cyber Security - Cybersecurity is more around dealing with preventive measures so that a cyber attack can be blocked. Key activities include:
> Designing robust systems to thwart any cyber attacks
> Identify network vulnerabilities and finding ways for mitigation

Digital Forensics - This is more around reactive measures after an attack has happened. Key activities involve:
> Conducting data and security breach investigations;
> Recovering and examining data from computers and electronic storage devices;
> Dismantling and rebuilding damaged systems to retrieve lost data;
> Identifying additional systems compromised by cyberattacks and compiling evidence for legal cases.

Now IT Consulting can be around any of these fields as well. Suppose, there is a client requirement to build a website that will need a secure payment gateway. So, as an IT consultant, you might advise the client on how this can be achieved. While the core web development will be done by a developer, but as a consultant, you are expected to outline and advise the client how things will best work given the business scenario. Also, to harden the cybersecurity part, you might rope in a Security architect who provides a possible solution architecture to mitigate the risks.

Now, say the same system gets sabotaged after hackers found a new vulnerability that they exploited, now it is important to carry out the investigation to check how much data breach has happened and take corrective measures. So, again a security architect will be brought in along with a digital forensics specialist, both of whom will work together to find out what happened and how it happened and take steps so that the system security can be hardened further. Apart from that from a legal standpoint, the digital forensics specialist may also collect traces and evidence to provide to law enforcement agencies to see if the attacker can be tracked down.

So, you see all parts are important and everything together fits in at the right places.

In the foreseeable future, all of it can be really vital, as with the technology boom, IT systems will need all of these professionals. But then, these do not work in silos. As a web developer, you would need to understand how a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack occurs. A consultant needs to understand which parts of an IT system could be vulnerable. It's okay not to be an expert in all areas, but the key is to be an expert on one at least and then have some breadth of knowledge so that you can talk to these other experts and may even suggest a thing or to, from your perspective.

In this digital age, it is easy to learn about any of these fields. Lots of opportunities exist for cross-skilling and even getting certified.
As far as career prospect is concerned, I believe this very strongly, if you are really good, you will shine, no matter which field you choose!

But, key being -
1. Don't be afraid to try a new area.
2. If you don't like it for whatever reason, don't stick around.
3. Find your niche and then increase your experience and expertise.
4. Can't stress this enough. Don't make money the primary motivation for choosing an area. You gotta love the work, that's the key, everything else will automatically fall in place and money will automatically flow.

Not sure, if I could answer your question. If you have any feedback, please let me know.

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Dan’s Answer

Hi Sam.

Let me start by saying there is no wrong choice here. There is only a choice that is best for you. I suspect you will get several who will suggest Cyber Security is the way to go because it is definitely a very hot field right now. I agree that would be a great choice. However, each of the four fields you've asked about presents tremendous opportunities for someone just starting their career. But each has it's own challenges, too. Digital forensics, for example, may lead you into a court room. Is that something you would like or something you would feel uncomfortable doing? Pre-pandemic, IT consulting often meant travel and extended periods of time away from home. Again, something you would enjoy or stress over?

So I have a suggestion and a reminder for you. My suggestion is to seek out people in those particular fields and ask them not just what they enjoy the most, but also what they like the least about their jobs. Ask them what is most rewarding, but also ask them what is the hardest part of their job. I think once you have comprehensive and well-rounded input to consider, something will likely move to the forefront for you, You should feel a passion to get started. But my reminder is to don't let yourself stress over your choice. This is your start, but it is just that. No one who is first starting out can predict the many twists and turns I promise you your career will take!

I wish you the best of luck,
Dan Meddaugh
VP, Software and Hardware Engineering

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