While securing a role in cyber can require technical skills and qualifications, often military security training and experience are equally transferable skills. One of our Veteran recruits, Heath Moodie, is a founder of the ‘Veterans in Cyber Security’ Group in Brisbane. We talk to Heath about his experience, his next event and how to get involved.
You’re one the founders of a Veterans’ Group in Brisbane, Heath – how did that happen?
When I left the military, people said that, with a security clearance, you could walk into an entry level cyber security job easily. Of course, this was too good to be true and I quickly realised that was not the case.
The Cyber community isn’t particularly open and Brisbane’s network is small. After pushing out a lot of messages initially and finding new connections with similar backgrounds and chatting, a group of 5 of us met up for a few beers, and that was the start of ‘Veterans in Cyber Security’.
What was your actual experience of transitioning to civilian life like?
It’s hard work. Both physically and mentally. It’s a complete lifestyle change overnight, for better and for worse. I really struggled with the lack of community and absence of purpose.
When you’re in the army, you know what you’re there to do. You’re never alone doing it; everybody is there to help you. Outside of the military, there could be 20 or 30 competing priorities at any given time and no clear purpose to any of it.
I really had no idea of the challenge that followed when I left. I went from working with 60 – 70 of my best mates every day to being by myself. The band aid had been ripped off and I was suddenly very alone.
This sense of loneliness was compounded by the overall “closed” nature of cyber security. Everything is secretive, untrusting and insular. Add to this, the lack of Veteran support when leaving the military, it’s a very confusing, stressed and mentally challenging experience.
Was there a pivotal moment when you realised setting up the Group was something you needed to do?
My mental capacity was still not 100%, and I decided that nobody else should ever feel so low or do the transition alone. I had the power to change that. I fell on my feet and was presented with an opportunity to help my brothers who had just come back from Iraq after their 6-month deployments. I acknowledge that, during my time in the military, I was never the best solider, but I was always focused on being the best team player. And now I had the opportunity to do more of what I loved – helping my mates out. So I decided to act and pushed to run a large scale event.
I put an open call out to people in the Veteran space. I expected 10 people at the first event and 30 people attended. Before the event was even half way through, the call the do the next one was evident. From there, the next meeting had 40 or 50 people attend. It became a very organic community, people inviting their mates along, catching up and sharing stories with others.
We had a sense of community, belonging and purpose; helping each other through life transitions back into civilian life.
Did COVID-19 affect your progress?
Yes. We were about to run our biggest event, and 120 people had RSVP’d to the event. Then the first wave of pandemic lockdowns hit. In January this year, we were about to run our next event and Brisbane entered a snap lockdown again – so it’s definitely had an impact.
We all needed human connection, and the online connection didn’t work as well. Adding a screen exacerbated the problem of disconnection.
How did you alter your course?
I transitioned to 1-2-1 mentoring for a while. I’d go and have breakfast or coffee with people, share my story, talk about the transition to civilian life and see how they were dealing with the new world. It was always important for me to arrive with independence and be very clear that my interest came from lived experience, with an agenda of compassion and an intent to help.
Do you have sponsors?
We have a group of very kind people and businesses who support our mission and provide help without pushing an agenda. Keeping the community safe and independent is really important to make as many resources accessible as possible and we’re always open to receiving support, as long as it is without a sales or marketing focus.
You must be pleased to run face to face events again?
Yes, and I’m so pleased to be running our next event at 4.30pm on the 10th June in the City with @George Crooks discussing ‘What I wish I knew before joining a SOC’. Anyone from the Cyber community is welcome to attend and share their knowledge with the Veterans -just drop me a line or register for the event and I’ll see you there https://www.meetup.com/Veterans-in-Cyber-Security-Brisbane/events/278265904/