There is a war for talent in the online security sector right now, PwC’s Asia Pacific Cyber Lead Steve Ingram says. Good people in cyber are both hard to find and expensive. And good people who also have a commercial acumen are even more expensive.
This talent shortage is not restricted to Australia. It is a global phenomenon, and Australia is actually better off than elsewhere in the region.
And Mr Ingram is upbeat about Australia’s cyber readiness. It’s a moving feast, of course, but our governments and our business leaders have broadly got the message in the past couple of years. Cyber risk is taken seriously; it is a priority at the highest levels.
And from a cultural point of view, risk awareness has become more baked into behavioural norms. There is still a way to go, but generally, broad cultural awareness of cyber issues has changed online behaviour, which in turn makes everyone safer.
Protecting against the sophistication of cyber threats is a team game. This is the case in protecting national economic interests through government-to-government cyber partnerships and collaborations with allies and trade partners, just as it is inside the multidisciplinary teams working in a company.
There are no silver bullets in cyber protections. It is not simply a technical problem that can be ‘solved’ with technical skills alone, Mr Ingram says. The most effective teams bring an array of skills – from IT to people and culture to risk management and resilience.
Large or small, the most cyber-ready organisations are those that have strong teams of multidisciplinary talent.
In this podcast, Steve Ingram about the most pressing cyber issues in Australia, and some of the policies that have been putting in place to address them. Talent is issue, but he also expands on the impact on cyber of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and the wave of complexity that is arriving through the Internet of Things.
Mr Ingram has an unusual backstory of experience that he brings to the regional leadership role in Cyber at PwC. If the route to his current role seems unconventional for a global management firm, Mr Ingram says the nature of the cyber business makes for unconventional career paths.
It’s a fascinating story. When Mr Ingram left school he did an apprenticeship as a scientific instrument technician at the munitions filling factory in St Mary’s in Sydney. At that time, ‘scientific’ was all about hydraulics and pneumatics, rather than the electronic industrial controls that were just starting to appear.
He later joined the Australian Federal Police from where he was able to pursue tertiary studies (in psychology) while involved in law enforcement activity focused primarily on narcotics and organised crime. He then moved to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.
This led to the start of a consulting career when he began at Andersen Consulting working in Fraud and Integrity Risk, then a period at the Commonwealth Bank as general manager for Strategy and Security Risk.
And for the past 13 years, Mr Ingram has been at PwC Cyber, leading an integrated team of IT Security, IT Risk and Forensic Technology. Even in hindsight, this career path seems a long and winding road.
“In many ways that whole career is a metaphor for what we face in cyber …. Because it’s not just one thing,” Mr Ingram says. “It’s not IT … it’s IT plus people and culture, and its enterprise-wide risk management and resilience.”
“It is a whole range of different aspects coming together. And it’s about being able to look at the big picture and to be able to make sense out of confusion and to bring different moving parts together in an effective way,” he says.
Australia was well placed to take a leadership position in cyber, making the country more attractive as a place to do business. He says Australia has an advantage in that it is big enough to have scale, but not so big that we get bogged down in things.
The biggest issue remains talent – even as universities and short-course providers are gearing up their offering, and even primary and secondary schools have added new emphasis to core STEM subjects and a broader awareness of online safety and digital environments.
Although government is more actively competing for cyber talent having raised the priority profile of cyber issues, Mr Ingram says this is a positive for the sector.
“We now have the military announcing 900 new roles in cyber. Whilst that might cause an initial strain on the system, I am excited that this creates 900 new careers, and that creates 900 more skilled individuals coming out of universities and getting hard core exposure [to cyber] and who will move into the private sector,” he said.
“That will create a real flow-through effect. And it also demonstrates the range of careers that are available in this space.”
PwC is a valued supporter of InnovationAus.com, and a strategic partner of the ‘Cyber Security: The Leadership Imperative’ forum being held in Melbourne on October 26.