How the UK Cyber 9/12 Challenge helped me kickstart my career in Cyber Security

Former competitor Laurence Cooper tells us about his UK Cyber 9/12 experience and how it has influenced his new job role in the industry.


Laurence Cooper

2/13/20242 min read

Cyber 9/12 Blog – Laurence Cooper

My name is Laurence Cooper, I am a graduate of Swansea University Law and I also have a Masters in Cybercrime and Terrorism. Whilst studying my Master’s degree, I attended the Cyber 9/12 policy and strategy competition through which I secured a position within the cybersecurity industry. I now work as a Cyber Assurance Analyst at BAE Systems, largely focusing on compliance and control effectiveness. This means I assess the compliance level of enterprise IT systems against a set of cybersecurity standards, such as NIST and ISO. For anyone with a more humanities based background, assurance and compliance roles are a great gateway into the industry.

Kick-starting my cybersecurity career

The competition was a direct link into my first cyber role, as it gave me the opportunity to network with a number of senior industry professionals. As a student, this was an excellent opportunity as not only was I trying to get into a competitive industry, but I also had no technical background. The competition showed me that I can use my transferable skills to succeed in a highly-technical industry.

Acting as senior policy advisors, the competition allowed me to use my presentation, team-working and analytical skills to decipher intelligence and make policy recommendations. Our team progressed to the semi-finals, and also won an award for the best teamwork. This was largely due to our team having such a diverse background and experience. Relying on skills I had developed from mock court competitions and client interviewing, we were able to present our policy recommendations with clarity, accuracy and a high level of professionalism.

The competition gave me the opportunity to develop my cyber-security knowledge with access to talks from industry partners on a range of topics including cyber-insurance and threat intelligence. I also had the chance to network with industry professionals that helped me to develop an early-career plan.

My time in the cyber industry has been such an interesting experience. It may sound cliché but every day is a different day. A new challenge presents itself with each project, and there is no shortage of opportunities to expand your knowledge and experience. In the first six months, I have undertaken the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and the Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK) certificates, with many more planned.

I enjoy working in this environment as there are constant development opportunities. Every new exploit means that an organisations security posture must be reviewed, which can pose challenges working in a more policy based role.

It was surprising to see how much the Cyber 9/12 competition reflected this. Competing in the competition gave me a good understanding of what the industry can be like. For any cyber security students, or anyone interested in this area, I would highly recommend engaging in the Cyber 9/12 competition.