Should Cyber specialists work in-house or a consulting firm?

Christine Wright, Senior Vice President, Hays U.S.

If you’re a cybersecurity professional, you either work in-house at a company or as part of a cybersecurity firm. For those interested in a change, it’s worth considering how the other side spends their working hours, and if the alternative is right for you. 

An in-house cyber role at a company 

Overview of an in-house cybersecurity role

You work with the same team and IT environment every day. Depending on your specific role, you assess potential threats to your corporate network, prioritize and escalate threats, and investigate potential breaches. You’re also involved in cybersecurity training for the entire company and creating an overall cyber plan.

Unless there’s an issue, in-house roles usually have nine-to-five hours. The exception to this is if you work in a Security Operations Center (SOC), where you may work alternating night shifts.

Should you choose an in-house security role?

Do you prefer to go deep on problems? Do you like to learn the ins and outs of a specific business and its operations? If so, an in-house role is best for you. An in-house role provides an opportunity to get to know business leaders and how they get work done. 

One of the downsides of an in-house role is lack of exposure. In some companies, cyber specialists get stuck in what’s known as “ticket monkey” positions, where they spend all their time prioritizing and escalating threats rather than investigating them. 

Cyber professionals in this position either need to take a proactive approach and ask for more challenging projects or consider work in a consulting or MSSP environment.

A cyber role at a consulting firm or Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP)

Overview of an MSSP or consulting role

In a consulting role or MSSP role, you’re working on projects for multiple clients. In a consulting firm, you’ll work on a specific project for an engagement and then quickly move on. In an MSSP role, you’re working for several long-term clients. Oftentimes, a consulting firm offers a specific, niche cybersecurity service like penetration testing while an MSSP offers comprehensive cybersecurity services for enterprises who want to outsource their SOC operation. 

Should you choose a consulting or MSSP role?

Consulting roles and MSSP roles give cyber specialists exposure to a wide range of business and IT environments. If you’re trying to extend the breadth of your expertise, or you find the routine work of an in-house role dull, a consulting or MSSP role might be for you.

While these roles are great for gaining exposure and a wide range of experience, short-lived engagements can become exhausting and frustrating. In a consulting environment, you’re at the mercy of your firm’s process efficiency. If your firm doesn’t have an efficient way for onboarding and servicing new clients, every engagement can feel like reinventing the wheel. 

In an MSSP environment, you may not have the chance to give clients as much attention as you’d like. So it’s important to know whether your personality is suited to fast-paced engagements with multiple clients before making a change. 

As a cybersecurity professional, you’re part of an exciting field. But it’s important to assess all your career options and find a work environment that suits your goals and interests.