Anyone who's ever been through a job interview knows full well that education credentials mean far less than actual work experience to most employers. An organization's recruiting efforts gauge job candidates based on the contributions that their skill sets and experience may bring to the enterprise.
But when it comes to identifying the work experiences and skills that promise benefits and add value to the firm, what should IT organizations look for? In my recent article "Is there a place for ex-cops among the ranks of your IT staff?" I explored the impacts of IT workers with law-enforcement backgrounds on organizations. Based on comments in response to the article, people with these skill sets can both hinder and help your IT shop. Before you either hire or reject your next job candidate, read ahead to find out what some TechRepublic members say about this set of skills and experience.
A double-edged sword
Before TechRepublic member Michael B. Easter started working as a network administrator, he was an investigator in both the private and U.S. government sectors. During his career, Easter was exposed to numerous techniques and investigative procedures that he believes can serve as both an asset and a burden to IT shops.
In the wake of a cybercrime incident, Easter believes that his experience in evidentiary procedures is useful to his organization. "By gathering this data quickly…within the local guidelines for prosecution," wrote Easter, "I can ensure that the minimal amount of evidence degradation has occurred and that the best legal response can be affected."
As attractive as these abilities may seem to an organization subject to cyberattacks, the very training and knowledge that professionals like Easter uphold can be counterproductive to business interests of the company.
Law-enforcement officers, according to Easter, may be inclined to do everything in their power to find and prosecute the perpetrator. However, the process may turn out something like this: "Evidence can quickly extend from bit-by-bit copies of hard drives and logs to the entire physical network of a company. Obviously, this brings the entire company to a standstill."
A wider breadth of skills
So if knowledge and skills in evidentiary procedures are questionable benefits, do law-enforcement/IT pros bring other specific skills to the enterprise? David McGaha, a former law-enforcement officer and current IT professional, believes that the discipline and professional development that he acquired as an officer are far more important than any evidence-related skills.
"Also, deductive reasoning and logical thinking skills required to follow complex legal cases are very useful in dealing with computers, software, and their associated problems."
According to Blair Ferguson, law-enforcement backgrounds can augment an organization's risk-management efforts. Ferguson, who manages a technology-services department and has a correctional-services background, considers the litigious nature of society as reason enough to recruit candidates with law-enforcement skill sets.
"It has been my experience that many companies see law-enforcement types as an asset…. We law-enforcement types can often save companies thousands of dollars by just recommending courses of action that avoid litigation."
The consultant role
People with law-enforcement skills may be benefits to IT organizations, but do they warrant a special spot on the payroll? According to TechRepublic member Philip Johnson, no.
Johnson doesn't deny that people with law-enforcement skill sets belong among the IT ranks, but their place has a particular name: "Consultantville."
"Face it," wrote Johnson, "They cannot do anything for the company until after the cybercrime has been committed, so why have them attached to your budget until the need arises?"
As consultants, these IT pros would always be a phone call away—dedicated to addressing the illegal incident at hand.
What's your take?
Are there benefits to law-enforcement backgrounds in IT? Are these pros better suited for consultant roles than in-house positions? Join the discussion and share your thoughts.