It is no secret that filling technical Identity & Access Management roles in today’s job market is not an easy task. Depending on the role, you may run into a number of different challenges:
- Difficulty finding someone with solid technical experience
- Location strategies narrow down the already small number of qualified applications
- Salary requirements can be out of reach for companies
- Factor in the need for niche skills – vendor specific expertise, new and emerging technology, or even support for legacy technology.
I could continue this list, but to put it simply, everyone who is recruiting is looking for the same type of Identity and Access Management unicorn that you are.
So, what do you do?
Train your own Identity & Access Management Engineer!
Organizations can be successful in reskilling internal talent to fill technical IAM roles if the following criteria are met in partnership between the employee and employer:
- Recognize interest and value for both the employee and the company
- Successfully navigate information paralysis
- Successfully manage setbacks and challenges
Recognizing Interest & Value
Both the company and the employee should benefit from training an engineer on the job. The company benefits by retaining a fantastic worker (let’s be honest, if you weren’t fantastic, you likely wouldn’t have this opportunity), and they save up to 12 weeks of resource time, if not more, by avoiding the onboarding of a person new to the company. The company also saves time and money in recruiting for these hard to fill roles.
You’re likely wondering, how you recognize interest or value in this move for yourself. The answers to the questions listed below were crucial to my success as I trained, on the job, to become an Identity Engineer at Thomson Reuters.
- What position do you want to be in 2 or 3 jobs from now? Or 5 years from now?
- Do you want to do more technical, strategy, or management type work?
- What skills or experiences do people in your goal position have, that you may need to develop further?
- What subjects, type of work, technical areas, or projects energize you in your current role?
- If you choose a broad area, such as Identity & Access Management, what specific area within IAM energizes you or makes you excited?
Pro tip: if you are unsure what area of IAM may be best for you, reach out to the IDPro Slack Channel community; it is filled with many folks across IAM who would be more than willing to share what they do with you.
Successfully Navigating Information Paralysis
Now that you have a goal position, opportunities for growth identified, and a technical area of focus, you’re ready for the next step. But, where exactly should you start?
Pro tip: Get ideas out of your head, keep a list of the subjects you should learn about and refer back to it often.
Have team members review a list of subject areas you have found as learning opportunities; this will give you a sanity check and also give them a chance to provide feedback in terms of priority. Then, have your manager review your learning list.
After your manager has reviewed your list, you’re ready to hit the ground running! But wait – where do you start? What resources do you use?
My recommendations for learning while on the job:
- Focus on no more than 2 information areas at one time
- Job shadow with colleagues
- Narrow down learning resources to what works best for you:
- Books (IDPro’s Annotated Bibliography is a great place to start)
- Online Training & Labs
- Independent Research
Managing Challenges and Setbacks
I have learned a lot of lessons throughout my 18-month journey as an Identity Engineer. Here are a few pieces of advice I would recommend to anyone considering this journey:
- It will be difficult, don’t underestimate that, and don’t get down on yourself. I tend to want instant gratification; this is not the place for that (most days).
- Be patient, it is going to take time. See above.
- The practice of IAM was not built in a day, you’re not going to become an expert in a day.
- Develop a system that works for you in order to see progress. Turn your learning list into a checklist, aim for certifications or specific objectives with timelines to help you feel like you’re moving forward.
- Remember your strengths and continue to use them, you were given the opportunity to move to a more technical role for a reason. Your strengths still apply and add value to your team.
The journey of becoming an Identity Engineer is not an easy one, but it has tremendous value. If you are a manager of an IAM team, I encourage you to take the chance on an employee who is interested in engineering. This journey is just as valuable for you, as a leader, as it is for the worker.
For more detail on this topic, check out my Identiverse 2019 presentation:
How to Become an Identity Engineer: A First Hand Account of Becoming an Identity Engineer on the Job
Identity Engineer at Thomson Reuters