Neurodiversity in the Cyber Security workplace

Technology often provides people with unique opportunities and solutions, and neurodiversity offers much of the same to a workplace. Cyber security can be fast-paced and complex, so it could benefit from people with specialised skill sets.

What is Neurodiversity?

Around 15% of the population in the UK is thought to be neurodiverse. This is a term that covers a range of neurological conditions, ranging from autism and Asperger’s syndrome to ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia. However, this group is often greatly under-represented in the workforce especially in the cyber security space.

Workplaces Need Neurodiversity

The tech industry is changing, where in 2021, the demand for cyber security professionals increased by 58%, with the industry not slowing down. Employers want to remain competitive, therefore must hire and retain neurodivergent employees. Seeking to employ neurodivergent people raises the likelihood prospective employees will see a company as competitive.

However, historically the tech industry hasn’t been very diverse. Bias and lack of opportunities for higher education have made it difficult for minorities to become a part of cyber security. Neurodiversity brings various outlooks and solutions to a workplace, which can significantly benefit employers and employees.

Workplace neurodiversity has several plusses, which include:

    • Unique skills: provide unique and specialised skills in their approach of tackling tasks
    • Different approaches: think differently than most and can approach situations differently
    • New solutions:  skills and mindsets can offer unique solutions to workplace issues

Neurodiverse people can offer workplace solutions that the average person might be unable to.

Podcast – Hyperfocus Hour

Via Resource have released a podcast, dedicated to ADHD/Neurodiversity In the workplace; where guest speakers join forces with Jonathan Wakefield a consultant at Via Resource to navigate and build tools for neurodivergent people in tech and cyber security to succeed in building a successful career. New episodes are out every first Thursday on the month.

The first two podcasts include:

How Neurodiversity Works in the Workplace

Cyber security can benefit from neurodiversity, where individuals can provide advantages to their security roles providing a positive affect to their work. Neurodiversity affects each person differently, but can benefit their professions the same, below are some examples.

1. Hyperfocus

Hyperfocus is described as giving complete attention to a specific task for a prolonged time — to the point where all distractions are tuned out. People with neurodiversity can engage in a job, give it selective attention, and tune out all outside noise. This can be very beneficial in a cyber security role, as neurodiversity can allow people to be highly attentive to their work tasks.

2. Repetitive Tasks

Many neurodiverse people are fond of patterns and repetition. Some often seek to repeat tasks in their daily lives by creating routines and may seek a regular work schedule. Long, monotonous routines can be calming or even exciting to people who are neurodiverse. They would fit well in a role in cyber security.

3. Creativity

Unique thoughts and nonlinear thinking make neurodiversity a crucial part of problem-solving. Neurodiverse people often come up with creative solutions because they can look at an issue from a different perspective. They can also develop innovative ways to do everyday tasks, which would improve efficiency in the workplace.

4. High Performance

Neurodiversity can give people high levels of concentration and persistence. They often try to focus on tasks and persist until they develop solutions. A cyber security role aligns with this level of effort. A neurodivergent person can continue working on specific jobs for prolonged periods with little to no dip in performance.

5. Insight

Innovative tendencies can help with workplace performance. Neurodiverse individuals can have strong reasoning skills that, combined with keen awareness, make for great team members. Insight is also very beneficial for a security role. Being able to plan and think outside the box means they might anticipate issues that the average person won’t.

6. Teamwork

Neurodivergent people respond well to inclusion. A team that consists of diverse individuals reacts better to challenges. Neurodiverse individuals connect with others like them, and having many on a team heightens each of their strengths. Morale might increase when a workplace fosters diversity.

Taking the next step

Individuals have a wide range of skills that can be used in different ways. For example, there is a perception that people on the autism spectrum are particularly good with maths. By identifying where each individual skills lie and what roles they will be best suited for, prospective employees can find jobs tailored to their skill sets and interests. For example, threat analysis, penetration testing and SOC analysis, these roles can require exactly the type of skills neurodiverse people are more likely to have.