How do I transition from Government to Private Sector?


Contribute to the community and build up your resume

Contribute to this forum by helping to moderate and answer questions.

If interested, please contact us at forum@ComputerForensicsWorld.com


jwailes

New Member
Dec 13, 2018
3
Ratings
4
3
#1
I'm starting this thread in hopes of generating a discussion about employment and transition that I hope will help a few folks.
I'm currently a Detective and a Digital Forensic Examiner for a major metropolitan police department in the U.S. Midwest. I've been a forensic examiner for about 3.5 years and have earned one certification with a couple more on the way in the next year. I'm also currently working on a BS in Cybersecurity.
I want to transition to the private sector or to a government job as a civilian contractor when I am able to retire in about four years.

What areas should I be concentrating on to make that transition?
What skills do I likely have as a 20+ year police officer and detective/investigator that I should highlight to market myself in the best way possible?
What advantages and disadvantages will I find myself facing when I enter that market as a middle aged person with the skills I have and don't have?
What resources are available for individuals transferring from law enforcement and/or military to the infosec private sector?
What other advice, experiences, anecdotes, etc. does anyone have that might be of interest to anyone following this thread?

Thanks to all who participate in a discussion about this and I hope this will be of value to everyone.
 

Lids

Member
Experienced Member
Oct 23, 2018
30
Ratings
31
18
#2
Hi @jwailes and welcome to the forum!

I currently work for one of the "Big 4" consulting firms doing computer forensic and eDiscovery and within our ranks are a lot of ex-law enforcement. During my time in Australia, most of the Managers and Partners within Forensic had some sort of law enforcement background or regulatory background at either State level or Federal level. The skillsets needed are the same for computer forensic work most places -- having that law enforcement background can give you an edge in both providing a client comfort that the job is being done by someone with "real world" experience and also you bring a different viewpoint from someone straight out of University as you would have experienced scenarios in the field - or maybe had to ad hoc pull analysis together using different tools due to budget or court restrictions - that others may not have.

The Big 4 consulting firms also do a lot of Government work in the U.S. so having a law enforcement background may place you well to be put on these engagements.

Out of interest, can I ask which certifications you are going for / have? It used to be that you needed to be EnCase certified to do nearly anything but that has changed in the last few years. As long as you have a good grounding in digital forensics, an understanding of what can be permitted in court, etc - I'm sure you'll be fine. Going down the path of becoming a registered "expert witness" in different states may help also; this is usually well paying work.

In terms of disadvantages, depending on whom you approach and what they're looking for - you may find yourself going in at a more junior level than you wanted initially until you get a chance to prove yourself. I know a few ex-law enforcement digital forensic consultants in the States so feel free to drop me a note if you want me to put you in touch with anyone for a chat.

Just my two cents :)
 

jwailes

New Member
Dec 13, 2018
3
Ratings
4
3
#3
Hi @jwailes and welcome to the forum!

I currently work for one of the "Big 4" consulting firms doing computer forensic and eDiscovery and within our ranks are a lot of ex-law enforcement. During my time in Australia, most of the Managers and Partners within Forensic had some sort of law enforcement background or regulatory background at either State level or Federal level. The skillsets needed are the same for computer forensic work most places -- having that law enforcement background can give you an edge in both providing a client comfort that the job is being done by someone with "real world" experience and also you bring a different viewpoint from someone straight out of University as you would have experienced scenarios in the field - or maybe had to ad hoc pull analysis together using different tools due to budget or court restrictions - that others may not have.

The Big 4 consulting firms also do a lot of Government work in the U.S. so having a law enforcement background may place you well to be put on these engagements.

Out of interest, can I ask which certifications you are going for / have? It used to be that you needed to be EnCase certified to do nearly anything but that has changed in the last few years. As long as you have a good grounding in digital forensics, an understanding of what can be permitted in court, etc - I'm sure you'll be fine. Going down the path of becoming a registered "expert witness" in different states may help also; this is usually well paying work.

In terms of disadvantages, depending on whom you approach and what they're looking for - you may find yourself going in at a more junior level than you wanted initially until you get a chance to prove yourself. I know a few ex-law enforcement digital forensic consultants in the States so feel free to drop me a note if you want me to put you in touch with anyone for a chat.

Just my two cents :)
That's great information. Thanks for sharing that.

Personally, I have my EnCE and I will be testing for my first couple of Cellebrite certs in the next six months. I'm also going to prep for the CFCE through IACIS before the end of next year and also plan on completing the CompTIA A+, Network+, and Security+ certs before November 2019 as part of my university work.

Any feedback on the certs I'm pursuing would be appreciated.
 

RobertM

New Member
TRUSTED Contributor
Sep 30, 2018
23
Ratings
14
3
#4
Hey @jwailes

Great discussion to start.

I think you will be following in the footsteps of many ex officers/

From my experience, the Cellebrite certs are good to have for court, but if you use Cellebrite, you shouldn't have an issue passing the tests. At least when I took them (Logical and Physical certs), they were really just to ensure you had the knowledge to use the product and speak to how it works in court if needed.

I also have the CompTIA A+, Network+ and Security+ certs. Good to have (as with any course or cert), but a bit painful to study for as most of the content is not related to digital forensics. And a lot of content makes you ask your self "Why do I need to know this?" ... Especially the A+. The hardest part of these tests is sometimes understanding the question (poorly written) and taking the test at the testing centers which often have old computers using 15inch monitors which makes the scenario questions really difficult when you can't open a dialog and still see the question below.

I enjoyed the Security+ certificate as I had a real interest in encryption and security, so overall, this was by far the best certificate to obtain out of those 3. Having stated that, they do build on each other, so best to go in the order suggested.

I hope this helps.
 

bshavers

New Member
TRUSTED Contributor
Dec 2, 2008
29
Ratings
20
3
Seattle, WA
www.dfir.training
Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/dfirtools/
Twitter
https://twitter.com/DFIRTraining
#5
What areas should I be concentrating on to make that transition?

Depends on what you want to do. eDiscovery vs incident response vs digital forensics or a mixed bag. LE is generally ‘pure digital forensics’ and depending on the agency ‘some or lots of IR’. There is less pure forensic work in the private sector compared to IR and ediscovery.

What skills do I likely have as a 20+ year police officer and detective/investigator that I should highlight to market myself in the best way possible?

Evidence collection. Testimony in criminal cases. Criminal investigations. Enforcing laws. Communication with all types of people. These are the things that no one can get unless having worked in LE (even PIs don’t have the extensive criminal investigation experience unless they are former LE…).

I'm willing to bet you personally handled thousands of items of criminal evidence, made hundreds of arrests, and authored more than a few affidavits for search warrants (many of which, you were sitting in a judge's home at 2am to get the judge's signature...), and wrote more reports than you could ever count, with many of them sending criminals to prison. Seems normal at the time, but this is not something anyone does besides cops, especially city/state/county cops.

Anything else is technical, which pretty anyone can learn with time and effort.


What advantages and disadvantages will I find myself facing when I enter that market as a middle aged person with the skills I have and don't have?

Your competition are college graduates with CS degrees, and they are smart. But see the above notes


What resources are available for individuals transferring from law enforcement and/or military to the infosec private sector?

You’re on your own if LE. It's dog-eat-dog.

Plenty of resources for veterans (more than you could ever use in one lifetime). Many technical programs are free for veterans, including forensics.


What other advice, experiences, anecdotes, etc. does anyone have that might be of interest to anyone following this thread?

Research the type of job you want (ediscovery, IR, forensics). Some require nearly 24/7 on-call and travel. Others not so much.



Learn about ‘billable hours’ now, before you start somewhere that tracks your billable hours versus working hours.



Fully exploit your LE experience when you can. Few others (especially attorneys) have it. An example:



An attorney asked me to drive 300 miles for an interview to hire me for a case as a consultant. I told her that I would be billing my normal rate, round-trip, plus the interview time. The attorney was more than willing to pay.



The attorney and paralegal gave me an interview (basic questions) until the “how do you think you will do on the stand” questions started. I said, “I do fine.” Attorney raised her voice, and kept asking me how do I know that I will do fine. I said, “Well, once you have had a gun stuck in your gut, nothing else really gets you excited.”


She didn’t know that I had a police background, narcs and SWAT on top of that, plus a few other things.



She hired me on the spot for the case (it was a really good case!) and I mentioned that she could have read my background in the CV that I emailed her….
 

jwailes

New Member
Dec 13, 2018
3
Ratings
4
3
#6
What areas should I be concentrating on to make that transition?

Depends on what you want to do. eDiscovery vs incident response vs digital forensics or a mixed bag. LE is generally ‘pure digital forensics’ and depending on the agency ‘some or lots of IR’. There is less pure forensic work in the private sector compared to IR and ediscovery.

What skills do I likely have as a 20+ year police officer and detective/investigator that I should highlight to market myself in the best way possible?

Evidence collection. Testimony in criminal cases. Criminal investigations. Enforcing laws. Communication with all types of people. These are the things that no one can get unless having worked in LE (even PIs don’t have the extensive criminal investigation experience unless they are former LE…).

I'm willing to bet you personally handled thousands of items of criminal evidence, made hundreds of arrests, and authored more than a few affidavits for search warrants (many of which, you were sitting in a judge's home at 2am to get the judge's signature...), and wrote more reports than you could ever count, with many of them sending criminals to prison. Seems normal at the time, but this is not something anyone does besides cops, especially city/state/county cops.

Anything else is technical, which pretty anyone can learn with time and effort.


What advantages and disadvantages will I find myself facing when I enter that market as a middle aged person with the skills I have and don't have?

Your competition are college graduates with CS degrees, and they are smart. But see the above notes


What resources are available for individuals transferring from law enforcement and/or military to the infosec private sector?

You’re on your own if LE. It's dog-eat-dog.

Plenty of resources for veterans (more than you could ever use in one lifetime). Many technical programs are free for veterans, including forensics.


What other advice, experiences, anecdotes, etc. does anyone have that might be of interest to anyone following this thread?

Research the type of job you want (ediscovery, IR, forensics). Some require nearly 24/7 on-call and travel. Others not so much.



Learn about ‘billable hours’ now, before you start somewhere that tracks your billable hours versus working hours.



Fully exploit your LE experience when you can. Few others (especially attorneys) have it. An example:



An attorney asked me to drive 300 miles for an interview to hire me for a case as a consultant. I told her that I would be billing my normal rate, round-trip, plus the interview time. The attorney was more than willing to pay.



The attorney and paralegal gave me an interview (basic questions) until the “how do you think you will do on the stand” questions started. I said, “I do fine.” Attorney raised her voice, and kept asking me how do I know that I will do fine. I said, “Well, once you have had a gun stuck in your gut, nothing else really gets you excited.”


She didn’t know that I had a police background, narcs and SWAT on top of that, plus a few other things.



She hired me on the spot for the case (it was a really good case!) and I mentioned that she could have read my background in the CV that I emailed her….
Thanks for sharing that information, bshavers. That's a lot of great info!

I do have one follow up question for the benefit of the veterans, though. Where can one find information on those benefits?

Thanks for sharing. I, for one, certainly appreciate your insight.
 

bshavers

New Member
TRUSTED Contributor
Dec 2, 2008
29
Ratings
20
3
Seattle, WA
www.dfir.training
Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/dfirtools/
Twitter
https://twitter.com/DFIRTraining
#7
There are local and federal organizations, business and private. Too many to list, but I would start at the VA website(s) and contact your local veteran association (Marine Corps League if you're a Marine vet, VFW, etc...) which will have local members familiar with the surrounding business and schools that have veteran programs and assistance.
 

About us

  • Our community began in 2004. Since this time, we have grown to have over 29,000+ members within the DFIR & Cyber Security community.

    We are happy to announce that this forum is now under new ownership with the goal to once again become the main Digital Forensics Forum on the internet for DFIR, OSINT and Cyber Security.

    If you can think of ways to help us improve, please let us know.

    We pride ourselves on offering unbiased, critical discussion among people of all different backgrounds.

    We are working every day to make sure our community is one of the best.

Quick Navigation

User Menu