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Red Alpha: The Cybersecurity Organisation That Pays You To Learn

This talent programme pays you to be trained in cybersecurity
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23 May 2024
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Getting paid to be trained probably sounds too good to be true, but that’s exactly what cybersecurity talent development company — Red Alpha — is offering to cybersecurity hopefuls who show potential to succeed within this highly technical and competitive industry. The selection criteria is necessarily stringent for such an enticing offer, but those who make it through are rewarded with near guaranteed job placement. Thus far, 100% of trainees who successfully complete Red Alpha’s six month training programme have successfully found jobs in cybersecurity — a record that the team intends to keep.


To understand exactly what it takes to succeed in cybersecurity and why such a unique business model was chosen, we sat down with founding team member, and Chief Community Officer (CCO) Emil Tan to find out about the local cybersecurity education scheme from an educator’s perspective.



The Red Alpha recruitment process


What traits do you look out for when selecting students?

Tan:Our talent development programme is specifically designed so that people can’t pay to join or ask to be included. Instead, we have a selection process that looks at aptitude and attitude. Aptitude refers to an individual’s analytical and logical thinking, and how they break down concepts in computing and cybersecurity logically. Those who possess aptitude may not have been exposed to cybersecurity before, but they pick up concepts quickly because they know how to ask the right questions. So far, 70% of our talents train themselves to become cybersecurity professionals from scratch.


To assess attitude, we ask applicants why they want to join cybersecurity in the first place. We ask about the types of roles they’re looking for and what sort of activities they’ve taken up to advance those interests. This gives us a snapshot into their motivations and how likely they are to succeed in cybersecurity. Combined with our six month training programme, Red Alpha graduates are able to hit the ground running when they eventually get job placements.

How many students are taken in for each cohort?

Tan: We’ve successfully run seven cohorts thus far, with the eighth cohort currently undergoing training (at the time of writing). Most of our cohorts average at around twelve, although there’s really no cap on class sizes. If more people pass the selection, we’re more than happy to expand the class and assign more trainers so that everyone can enjoy the same level of attention and learning experience.


Our programme is run about three to four times each year. We recruit all year long through a dedicated test centre, with scheduled interviews held each week. Interested candidates can apply via our website and we’ll follow up with advice on how they can proceed from there.


RedAlpha has successfully trained up five cohorts, with the eighth cohort in session at the time of writing. Each cohort consists of approximately twelve students, although there is no official cap on how big each cohort can be. Recruiters at RedAlpha openly state that anyone who is able to pass their selection tests will be included in their classes.


How are cybersecurity trainees supported on their learning journey?

Tan: We currently pay students $2,500 per month over the course of six months. This is meant to help people focus on acquiring skills without worrying about financial commitments back home.


Red Alpha training

How are lessons are conducted?

Tan:Our programme follows a cycle where trainees digest materials within a short span of time and apply their knowledge to hands-on real life scenarios. Widely recognised certifications such as the OffSec Certified Professional Certification (OSCP) for Red Teamers are also incorporated into our programmes. One of our trainees who obtained this certification went on to join a company as a penetration tester before becoming an instructor to teach that very same course within the span of one year.


Another certification we provide is the GlAC Certified Incident Handler. Without getting into technicalities, this credential qualifies an individual for Blue Team cybersecurity operations. For the uninitiated, red team is responsible for testing security systems by hacking in ethical ways. blue team looks at locks and telemetry, identifying potential cyber attacks and responding in a timely manner so that attackers cannot achieve their objectives.


What do trainees learn?

Tan:They study materials in a short span of time and apply the tutorial to the real life scenarios that we put them through. It varies from person to person. It’s really not confined to people who have studied in IT or cybersecurity. 70% train themselves up and get placed in cybersecurity jobs or within the industry.


Red Alpha offers a slew of courses under their cyber talent development programme, allowing trainees to walk away with industry-recognised proof of their newfound expertise across various cybersecurity domains.



How do Red Alpha graduates measure up against fresh tech graduates or individuals with more experience?


Tan:Based on feedback from our hiring partners thus far, most are surprised by the profile of our trainees. Traditionally, HR and hiring managers filter applicants based on whether they have the relevant certifications, with relevant experience being a plus point. Without these credentials, most candidates won’t even be considered in the first place.


However, what companies find is that our graduates not only have the relevant skillset, but also grow very quickly. For example, we’ve had a psychology major who’s used to reading papers digesting information quickly, and she was able to combine that skill with her newfound cybersecurity technical knowledge to land a cybersecurity consultancy job. There are many other individuals like her who grow very quickly and find their specialisations within a year. Because we take in students from such diverse backgrounds, they’re able to value-add in different ways compared to those who are strictly tech educated.


Do graduates receive further support after graduation?

Tan:We run multiple upskilling workshops with topics determined based on what’s happening in the industry and also feedback from our hiring partners. So far we’ve covered things like cyber threat intelligence, vulnerability research, as well as operational technology (OT) security, which relates to critical infrastructure like power and water that need to be heavily guarded. Given the current climate, AI) is definitely something that we’re looking at.


We conduct these workshops because we don’t want our employees and trainees to think that training ends after the six-month bootcamp. Tech is a very dynamic industry where things change every two to three years, so you can’t just carry on with the knowledge you’ve acquired indefinitely. As tech and cybersecurity practitioners, that’s what you have to be prepared for when you join the industry.


Welcoming new blood into the industry

Red Alpha’s efforts would not be possible without the help of industry veterans who lend their time to support trainees and graduates on a voluntary basis. These individuals comprise of CISOs, practice leads, and experts from various fields who not only understand how to navigate the industry, but more importantly, have a strong desire to see young talents fulfil their potential. And with the Red Alpha alumni roster constantly growing, it’s safe to say that the team is doing their part in building a strong local talent pipeline.


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