Choosing to change career wasn’t a risky decision for Hema Zmirak, as she knew that moving into cyber security is about as safe a bet as the name suggests.
With job opportunities growing and the demand for qualified graduates far outstripping supply, Zmirak chose to study the Master of Applied Science (Information Security) and is not disappointed.
"I was working for a pharmaceutical consulting firm, initially as an e-learning programmer and later in an IT consulting role, when I decided to progress my career through further study," she says.
"RMIT’s program was the only one of its kind in Victoria, but I also liked that it had a balance of theory and practical security subjects."
Global tech giant Cisco estimates that there are as many as one million vacant cyber security jobs around the world, with demand expected to rise to 6 million jobs globally by 2019 and pay for cyber security professionals around 9% higher than for other IT workers.
"Cyber security seemed like a field increasing in importance across most industries and I was offered two roles when I finished my studies – a testimony to the career options this program can provide," Zmirak says.
"My studies gave me a strong foundation in cryptography, a critical area in cyber security and risk management, and the course also allowed me to broaden my networks in the security industry."
The Master of Applied Science (Information Security) has been re-named as the Master of Cyber Security for those applying from 2018, which better reflects the career direction and aspirations of those who undertake the degree, according to program leader Associate Professor Serdar Boztas.
"As well as the name change, the program structure has also been streamlined giving students more options in term of specialisation in the increasingly complex cyber security landscape, with courses covering topics ranging from penetration testing and ethical hacking, to risk management and compliance” he says.
"It’s a great time to teach, learn, and practice cyber security."
While cyber-attacks remain a hot topic, more business and communication is being carried out online, so securing the data and information exchanged and stored in cyberspace is more important than ever.
Yet with cyber skills still in short supply, there’s never been a better time to be a cyber security graduate and Zmirak was able to commence her role as senior consultant for one of the big four consulting firms in the risk and security advisory team as soon as she completed her degree.
"My typical workday in the Financial Services department at ANZ involves tackling risks, escalation and information requests, working on projects or strategic initiatives and liaising with stakeholders on audits, though I also work on networking events for Women in Technology at ANZ," she says.
"It's interesting, challenging and rewarding work and I feel privileged to be part of the security community in Australia."
Banking is just one industry investing heavily in cyber security experts to help protect them from hackers, but with so much personal data stored and shared in cyberspace everyday it’s now a priority across the board and Zmirak’s aspirations reflect that.
"My long-term goal is to be a well-rounded technologist, running technical operations and leading a technology team."
Story: Daniel Walder