Career Stories

7 min read

From football stars to cybersecurity professionals using HTB Academy

Here's how football stars become cybersecurity professionals with HTB Academy and the Cyber Stars Programme!

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Jul 29

A technical background or degree isn't the only path toward a promising career in cybersecurity.

Chuck Woolson, a former United States Marine, changed careers in his 50s and became a Red Team Operator with little prior experience.

Josiah Beverton went from a physics student infatuated by cybersecurity to a professional penetration tester with experience in Blue and Red Team roles.

These success stories from our community are inspiring. But what if I tell you that the next cybersecurity prodigy could be a former football player?

Professional football has a problem with career paths

While there are thousands of successful sporting professionals across the globe, the number of unsuccessful athletes is in the hundreds of thousands.

These aspiring players are often young, talented individuals who have dedicated their lives to their respective sports, only to fall short of making it to the professional level. This creates a consistent stream of former athletes with a strong set of soft skills that lack the required hard skills to enter a new industry and start a new career.

For those young players who do not go on to have a career in the professional game, career paths can be difficult.

Aiming to have a direct impact on the issue, Phoenix Sport and Media Group (PSMG) initiated an innovative learning experience, partnering with Hack The Box, BIT Group, and CompTIA to help current and retired players into a career in cybersecurity.

“At Hack The Box we are committed to creating a safer cyber world by making cybersecurity training accessible to everyone. Everyone can join and start learning and practicing cybersecurity, from theory to action. With that in mind, Hack The Box supported the PSM Cyber Stars Programme, providing cyber security training to a selected group of athletes - willing to explore a new line of work - and as such offering a pathway for these individuals to a new career opportunity.”

- Haris Pylarinos (ch4p ), Founder & CEO @ Hack The Box

From football stars to cybersecurity professionals

Ben Franklin, CTO at BIT Group who lead the delivery of cybersecurity training to the first cohort of students, selected HTB Academy as the learning platform for the Cyber Stars Programme

The entire initiative was designed to go beyond traditional training and customized to help students take their first steps into cybersecurity. We interviewed Ben to learn more about the innovative 6-week training program and how students reacted to the type of learning our courses provide.

Cyber Stars Program CTO Ben Franklin

6 weeks isn’t a long time. How did you ensure knowledge progression during the short training period?

We are able to deliver results quickly by tailoring this course very specifically to meet the needs of sports stars and focusing on three specific pillars: technical skills training, mentoring, and business skills.

I worked closely with the CEO of PSMG, Carly Barnes, who has a vast knowledge of sport and business and together we created a syllabus using the different subjects available. We created fast-tracked technical skills training together. This combination of technical training alongside career transition and business skills coaching makes the Cyber Stars Programme really unique and helped ensure our students progressed so quickly.

I created pathways using the different subjects available that best matched the topics we covered during the syllabus. I really appreciated this opportunity that HTB Academy gives to select specific learning material and build your own based on the needs of your students.

As an example, I created a Social Intelligence Pathway, utilizing the Information Gathering - Web Edition (Easy) course followed by the Footprinting one (Medium). This approach allowed the students to progress faster and have a logical path through subjects.

This path was also a perfect way to introduce the first part of the Cyber Stars training, which included an OSINT reconnaissance challenge: each delegate had to produce and present a 10-minute piece on each other, highlighting key information that could be used against them in a cyber-attack.

HTB Academy played a huge role by providing the mindset and hands-on assessment to use for the challenge!

Tell us more about your experience with HTB Academy and its role during the training. How did students find it valuable?

The experience with HTB Academy has been excellent.

The platform is extremely easy to navigate, with a first-class customer experience. Academy training resources have complemented the Cyber Stars training perfectly; the “chalk & talk” sessions I host with students benefit from practical, hands-on environments that reinforce specific subject knowledge.

This dual approach to the course has given the delegates both immersive and interactive lessons.

Which technical topics did you manage to cover using HTB Academy?

We used some paths already created by the Hack The Box team and customized others based on our needs. The Bug Bounty Hunter job-role path, for example, is used to introduce delegates to what bug bounty hunting is and how this discipline can help start a new career by generating income.

For the rest of the training, we focused on important topics for individuals starting in security, such as NMAP, Active Directory ( used by approximately 95% of Fortune 500 companies ), and penetration testing, creating tailored paths using the course available on HTB Academy:

Tech all stars LinkedIn update

The graduation ceremony at Liverpool FC

Cyber Stars Liverpool FC image

The first cohort of students, who started the training in late April 2022, graduated on Friday 22nd of July at an event held at the AXA Training Centre, the training facility for one of the world’s most iconic football clubs, Liverpool FC, with the presence of the former football legend John Barnes.

Seven former football players, who due to various reasons left professional football after the youth academy, are now ready to start a new and exciting career path in IT, thanks to the PSM Cyber Stars Programme.

Cyber Stars Graduation Ceremony - Hack The Box Talk

The ceremony worked as an official launch of the initiative which aims to continue over the following years, including cohorts for female players and Paralympians athletes too.

Learn cybersecurity with HTB Academy

HTB Academy is the perfect place to start your cybersecurity journey. No matter what your background is or your level of knowledge. Mixing theoretical and practical learning, the cybersecurity courses available on Academy guide users from fundamental notions to more advanced concepts and techniques.

Custom paths to match you team's needs

Creating custom paths with Academy for Business

Every organization can use Academy for Business to train, assess, and certify its team’s skills. The platform offers flexibility, interactivity, and top-notch learning material (created by practicing cybersecurity professionals!), all within the browser, that can be tailored creating custom pathways to skyrocket the knowledge of every team member.

HTB Academy job-role paths

To provide guidance on which modules to study to obtain a specific skill or even the practical skills and mentality necessary for a specific cybersecurity position, HTB Academy features job-role paths.

These consist of a series of courses tied together in a logical order and divided into different domains, which enable students to get familiar with everyday tasks and assignments needed to perform a specific role in the cybersecurity job market.

Two job-role paths are now available on Academy:

With the introduction of industry certifications, every aspiring hacker completing a job-role path will be able to access the related exam and get certified. Covering soon multiple job roles and specializations, every job-role path will be supported by a relevant exam and certification.


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