From Newbie to Threat Analyst – Rob Eriksen Reveals Why He Chose the Sophos MDR Team

Intimidating, difficult? Sophos’ Rob Eriksen explains how his journey to a new career in cybersecurity wasn’t as daunting as he expected.

“Abandon hope all ye who enter” – A perfect encapsulation of the dread I felt in my first week jumping into cybersecurity. How was I ever going to master the nuances and intricacies of analyzing raw data and drawing succinct verdicts of “benign” or “malicious”? So strongly did I initially identify with this statement that I considered having it tattooed on my forehead. The level of intimidation I felt in my first week at Sophos is hard to overstate.

If my impression of the difficulty of getting into cybersecurity is anything like yours, I expect you have had similar self-doubts. With the daily deluge of news articles about the increasing frequency and sophistication of massively disruptive cyber-attacks, the thought that someone with little experience could learn to take on threat actors in a real-time battle for control of a network, and win, was laughable to me. But life has a funny way of putting us in the right place, at the right time, to become something wholly better than we were.

Prior to joining the Sophos MDR (Managed Detection and Response) team as an intern, I was working in an unrelated field, but I knew I liked programming and over the past few years had taught myself some basic python. I didn’t really know how to get started in computer science. I enrolled in a local junior college to take some computer science courses because, at the time, I was easily stressed out about anything having to do with computing technology. But I like to face my fears head-on; it is this same reasoning that led to an ill-fated decision to get a pet tarantula in college (and subsequently lose my girlfriend).

The courses were primarily beginner level coding and theory-based offerings but I found one called “Network Security”. I admit that networking never interested me. I’m highly curious by nature and like to build things, not study which types of twisted-pair cables to use when connecting a star-topology network system, but the security angle interested me.

One of my professors passed around an email from a former student that now works as an engineer at Sophos: they were looking for interns to fill a paid position, with the possibility of being brought on full-time. Recently, life had thrown me a curveball professionally and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to jump head-first into a new career.

Despite being 38 years old, I took the internship and was immediately treated like one of the team. No one here questions your path to get to cyber security, they simply welcome you with open arms. Within six months of completing my internship, I was offered a full-time threat analyst position and my skills have grown exponentially due to the compassion, patience, and training from each and every team member. Everyone has your back; when you are part of the MDR team at Sophos, you never walk alone.

The type of person that is most successful at integrating into this job is one with unflagging perseverance, enthusiasm, and an insatiable desire to learn. The work isn’t easy. In fact, initially it’s overwhelming for nearly everyone that walks through the door.

However, once you get the hang of it, the investigative nature of this profession is quite fun, often exciting, and very rewarding. The MDR team is a wonderful subset of Sophos that hosts all sorts of nerds, computer geeks, gamers, nature enthusiasts, caffeine aficionados, coding wizards… the list goes on. What you will find is that working here is like Disneyland for the right kind of people and that we are a family that looks out for one another.

You don’t have to be an elite SecOps (security operations) analyst to begin your career in cybersecurity.

In fact, due to how rapidly the threat landscape changes and adversaries adopt and invent new techniques, there’s no way to enter this field already knowing everything you’ll need to know. That’s part of the appeal of this profession: you will—by necessity—face new challenges and learn new skills.

And, at Sophos, you’ll overcome those challenges and refine your abilities with the support of a team that is dedicated to ensuring that you continue to grow. It is precisely this shared culture that sets Sophos apart, and has made this the greatest professional experience of my life.

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You can find out more about what it’s like to work at Sophos on our careers website and while you’re there why not take a look at our current career openings.

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