Saurav Varma talks about breaking new ground as the first cyber security apprentice at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence in Australia
I’d always imagined what the first day of my career would look like.
The hustle and bustle of a busy workplace, the excitement of meeting up with new colleagues, checking out the undoubtedly snazzy coffee machine – all this was on my list. Instead, I found myself sat at the kitchen table of my parents’ house grappling with a new laptop that just arrived by courier – not exactly the stuff that dreams are made of.
It was my misfortune to start my career just at the time of peak lockdown. It was August 23, Canberra was something of a ghost-town and my career at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence was off to something of an unexpected start as I made my first (remote) steps as a cyber security apprentice.
Fast forward a few months, though, and things are very different. I’m in the office at least two days a week, I’m meeting new colleagues and, most importantly, I’m learning a huge amount about cyber – both from my studies as well as the more hands-on experience that the company is offering me.
But why did I decide to take the apprenticeship route? Why am I an apprentice and not a university student like so many of my friends?
Learning by doing
I’ve always had a passion for IT – that wasn’t in doubt. But what I was unsure about was the direction I wanted to go in. After leaving school I took a couple of classes, one in cyber security and another in network programming. And this prompted me to head more towards the cyber and networking side of IT – I wanted to do something I enjoy and be a problem solver.
But rather than undertake a degree I wanted to get straight into the world of work. I’d seen many of my friends struggle with the reality of remote learning – lockdown has sadly meant that they have not had the classic university experience – and I wanted to get stuck in and get my hands dirty, so to speak.
And so when the opportunity came about to start work as a cyber security apprentice at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, the timing was perfect.
Hitting my stride
Just like any apprenticeship, my role is a job where I learn and gain experience while also getting paid. I do an average of one day of academic study and four days in the office which is ideal – working alongside everyone has been great as they are all so helpful and I have so many resources at my fingertips.
It’s also given me what I was craving – a mix of study and practical hands-on experience that will stand me for good stead in the long run as a fully qualified cyber security professional. I won’t get a degree – or the university debt that so many students face on graduation – but instead will receive a certificate from my tertiary school for my course on the fundamentals of cyber security.
I’m currently working on a lot of policy areas, which is giving me an ideal foundation as it’s letting me learn about the different protocols and controls which fall into all the different organisations. These include policies like the Essential Eight, a list of controls which government has to comply with – including multi-factor authentication and keeping software and applications up to date.
A public service
Sometimes I get asked to describe what I do and I’ve found that when I mention “cyber” I’m often greeted by a blank or confused expression. So instead, now I try and describe it in the easiest and simplest way.
We all have front door locks at home, and some of us have gates, alarms and security cameras too – all designed to keep out intruders. Cyber is like that but it’s built into your computer and your network in order to protect yourself and everyone you interact with online.
Even from just a couple of months I can see so many people and organisations who are vulnerable and still don’t know enough about how to protect themselves. I’m sure everyone will eventually learn but in the meantime I want to help them – and I can’t wait to get started.
Learn more about apprenticeships at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence
About the author
Saurav Varma is a cyber security apprentice at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence
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