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Startup 'Stealth Worker' Matches Businesses With Security Talent

New online service helps businesses looking for part-time security professionals fill specific job needs.

Everyone knows there's a talent gap in the security industry, but some non-security startups are also finding they can't afford the seasoned security talent that is out there. Enter Stealth Worker, a new online information security employment service launching today that hopes to offer an alternative to hiring a 9-to-5 security pro by matching employers with security people to fill specific duties or projects on a part-time basis.

Ken Baylor, founder of Stealth Worker (Stealthworker.com) and former CISO at Pivotal Software and Symantec as well as former vice president of antifraud at Wells Fargo, says the dearth of security talent also has led to "exploding cost" in hiring that not all firms can afford. And human resources often can't fill jobs quickly enough at large companies before candidates get snatched up by another company, he says.

Some Internet of Things startups in Silicon Valley, for example, need security experts, but don't have the budget to pay them their asking salaries. "One IoT CEO was saying 'I want all these top-quality security people, but I can't afford them. What if I get one or two for five- to 10 hours a week?'" Baylor says.

"Freelance" security professionals are the other side of the Stealth Worker equation. These are security pros with experience who want some challenging security work outside their day jobs or who want to conduct independent research half of their day, while earning a paycheck the other half of the day, he says.

"We're enabling them to find work with companies that fit their skillsets" and helping businesses find the pros with those skills, Baylor says. There are some 209,000 information security job openings unfilled today, he notes.

"Say a CISO needs a firewall. To buy one, you may pay $150,000 for this guy who sits on his hands most of the time" because his duties don't take all day, Baylor says. "Why not get a firewall person for five hours, a DLP [data leakage prevention] person for 10 hours, say, and splice the skills? We focus on people who are really brilliant at what they do, and [on companies that] pay them accordingly."

Professional recruiters such as Lee Kushner, president of LJ Kushner & Associates, LLC, says this security "free agent" concept makes sense in some cases. "I think it's a really interesting concept, the free agent economy," Kushner says. "That is a good idea. I think the better talent is less interested in solving the boring problems."

Baylor says Stealth Worker gives security pros a chance to work on different projects than they get in their day jobs, for example. And the traditional 9-to-5 workday model is shifting in the security space, he says, which opens the door for part-time gigs. More and more workers now prefer the "flex time" model, where they can work outside office hours.

"We're seeing a lot of freelancers … A lot of people with 20 years experience, who are unbelievably good and say 'I want one or two days a week'" of work, he says.

Stealth Worker works like this: security pros interested in part-time work submit their updated LinkedIn profile and resume via the Stealth Worker site. Stealth Worker then does background checks -- including reference checks -- for businesses that sign up looking for specific types of security pros and skills. Baylor says Stealth Worker can get a security pro matched up and on board with a company within a week.

There's no charge for the potential part-time security pros to use the service, and the recruiting businesses don't pay anything until a match is successful: the hiring company then pays Stealth Worker a fee that's 20 percent of the hired worker's hourly rate. So if Company A hires a CheckPoint firewall administrator for $80 an hour, the hiring firm pays Stealth Worker $16 per hour. Stealth Worker handles the payment process. 

Businesses tell Stealth Worker what they want to pay and for how many hours per week, and they get matched with candidates in that pay range. It's up to the business to then conduct the interviews and pick their new employee or employees.

There may be challenges with this new model, Kushner says. "What's going to be the quality of the talent?" Kushner says. "We don't have a body shortage. We have a talent shortage in this business."

A large firm that beta-tested Stealth Worker was looking to build out a new security team and ended up going with a team of part-timers found via the site. They saved money over full-time salaries, and got the team up in a week, says Baylor, who declined to divulge the company.

Stealth Worker is self-funded, and is made up of 10 employees, including Baylor. "Having met thousands of talented individuals along my career, I know many are unfulfilled" in their jobs, he writes on the company's blog. "Many are looking for a challenge and to rekindle their passion. Many of them have permission to consult outside their main job, but have not yet found what they desire. Frustrated, they waste their talents and their time."

He says the goal of Stealth Worker is to match those security pros with companies that need their specific talents, but are looking for a more efficient and affordable way to fill the positions. Among the positions currently available via a Stealth Worker match: IT and security sales engineers; CISOs; cloud administrators; DLP specialists; and IT and information security managers.

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