Why are companies across the Gulf finding cyber roles hard to hire for?

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Companies across the Gulf are finding it increasingly difficult to hire for cybersecurity roles as technology is developing rapidly and becoming increasingly complex.

In the last year alone, OpenAI launched the artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot ChatGPT, followed by Google’s recent launch of Bard and a similar tool by Microsoft.

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Constant rapid changes in technology, or the introduction of new technology, can give cybercriminals more avenues to hack into businesses, potentially extorting them for money and data or disrupting their systems.

According to experts in the field, having professionals who can keep up with the latest technologies and how to manage them is becoming cumbersome for cybersecurity firms.

It can get “very tricky” to fill some positions in cybersecurity, Barry Martin Dubai-based cybersecurity headhunter at recruitment firm Halian, told Al Arabiya English.

“There is an onus on people in the market to have up-to-date certifications, or at least, have started brushing up on specific new skill sets and tools that are that are coming into the market,” Martin said.

In a study released Earlier this week, cybersecurity firm Trellix said 66 percent of people managing IT departments across the UAE and Saudi Arabia think their organizations lack “the right people and processes to be cyber resilient.”

According to the same study, just over a quarter of IT managers across the countries also think companies lack the ability to retain or recruit talented cybersecurity experts.

“The technical requirements [for jobs] have definitely gotten more complex,” Martin said, compared to when he started recruiting for cybersecurity roles in the region some five years ago.

“Recruiters are seeing that reflected in the job briefs they send us. Occasionally we have to sit down with clients and have hard conversations about the realities of whether or not they’ll find somebody with experience on this very new, niche piece of tech,” Martin added.

But despite recruiters always finding it difficult to find suitable candidates, plenty of companies are still searching to fill cybersecurity roles.

The top IT vacancies people are searching for in Saudi Arabia include engineers and cybersecurity analysts, according to a report published late last year by cyber company Qrator Labs.

“It is a saturated market, sometimes often with the wrong candidates,” cyber recruiter Gianluca Sammartano at SGP Technology told Al Arabiya English.

“I spoke with many senior leaders in the region who have expressed frustrations with talent shortages… And that’s due to the high demand of cybersecurity professionals,” Sammartano added.

The cybersecurity workforce has reached an all-time high, with an estimated 4.7 million professionals. However, there’s still a global shortage of 3.4 million workers in this field, according to the 2022 Cybersecurity Workforce Study.

Focus on developing new talent

According to some experts, one way to fill missing talent gaps could be to train people already in jobs or even at an earlier level during university or school.

“There should be a growing focus on developing local talents and expertise… just to address this shortage of skill,” Sammartano said.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Chabib, outgoing CEO of Autobahn security, said, “There are no universities that can train you for that, by the time you have written a book on cybersecurity, it’s outdated.”

“You need modern education systems in order to teach cybersecurity, it’s an ongoing process,” Chabib told Al Arabiya English.

Global recruitment opportunities

But despite the challenges, there could be no better time to recruit people to the region, especially in the UAE, because of a relatively simple visa and residency system without lots of red tape, as well as a global cost of living crisis that has had less of an effect on the UAE.

“The UAE is a really easy sell, and I think it’s getting easier with the current state of the global economy,” Martin said.

Meanwhile, Sammartano added that it’s “relatively easy to get people to move to the UAE” because of the lifestyle and salaries.

“If you run out of talent locally, we’ll just go fishing in Latin America or Europe [for example]. You can get picky if you’ve got the whole world to choose from,” Martin added.

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