The concept of identity professionals wasn’t a known or accepted profession when I first started my career in information technology (IT). We were all sysadmins who also dealt with user IDs and passwords.

Times have changed. In a world of distributed work, cloud software, and a perpetually evolving threat landscape, identity is central to security. Yet for a long time and in spite of this growing importance, no professional organization existed to support identity specialists.

That all changed in 2017, when Ian Glazer, currently Senior Vice President of Identity and Product Management at Salesforce, founded the IDPro® community.

“In 2015, I found myself sitting in the lobby of a hotel where the International Association of Privacy Professionals was hosting their global summit,” Glazer recalls. “I remember wondering why identity practitioners didn’t have something similar. Where was our international association?”

An idea takes shape

“Part of why I created IDPro involved my own reflection of how I got into identity,” Glazer explains. “I didn’t learn identity management; I learned a very specific product. Then another one, and another one, and another one until I realized there was more to it than these individual solutions — identity management was a discipline.”

And it was a discipline that, at the time, was both costly and time consuming to learn. Instead of having a concentrated body of knowledge, identity practitioners were all forced to follow the same path Glazer had. Everyone agreed this approach was far from ideal, yet no one knew of any alternative.

“It became increasingly clear to me that there was a labor shortage in identity management,” says Glazer. “Going to conferences year over year, I also recognized a lot of the same faces but never anyone new. It was like we had this awesome clubhouse but weren’t inviting anyone in.”

Glazer concluded that identity practitioners needed a professional association to support new entrants and veterans alike. As he circulated the idea, he attracted other stakeholders who felt the same. Through the advice, counsel, and support of multiple people and organizations, the concept of IDPro was born.

A push for vendor-neutral knowledge

Each year, IDPro releases its Skills, Programs, & Diversity Survey to members. A barometer of how identity practitioners feel about the changing landscape of their industry, the survey also examines ongoing trends, developing technologies, and critical skills. Frustration about the lack of vendor-neutral training material represents one of its most consistent findings.

“It’s all well and good to learn product X from vendor Y, but that can’t be the only way to develop foundational skills,” Glazer explains. “One of IDPro’s core objectives is the construction of something called a body of knowledge, meant to be a vendor-neutral well to which people can turn when learning the practice of identity management. It’s a collection of material curated and written entirely by volunteers from the identity space and available in multiple languages.”

This collection is now more necessary than ever. Identity management is a deceptively vast discipline, and one that exists in a state of constant evolution. Keeping pace with changing trends, tactics, and techniques in their industry can overwhelm even veteran identity professionals, to say nothing of novices to the field.

“One of the questions in our survey asks respondents how long it took them to feel like a proficient practitioner,” says Glazer. “Roughly 25% of the respondents every year say they still don’t feel proficient, while others say it takes between three and 10 years. In my mind, this result reflects that we’re part of a growing industry — there are always new topics for a practitioner to learn.”

Shaping the face of the identity sector

Alongside its body of knowledge and annual survey, IDPro also provides identity professionals a sense of community. The association is a place where identity practitioners can interact with one another, including a member-exclusive Slack workspace.

“On any given day, you’ll see incredibly technical questions asking for pragmatic guidance on all kinds of identity topics,” says Glazer. “It’s a wonderful space, a great place to gather information, and an opportunity to give back. It’s a community built on industry connections, which creates the fundamental feeling that you aren’t alone, and that’s incredibly powerful to me.”

Arguably the most significant undertaking, however, is the recently announced CIDPro, the Certified Identity Professional Certification. First debuted in 2021, CIDPro provides identity practitioners with a way to validate both their skills and experience. Notably, it represents one of the first foundational certifications for identity management.

“CIDPro is something we’re extremely proud of,” notes Glazer. “It’s part of the promise we made to the identity community, the result of collaboration with some absolutely amazing people.”

What the future holds for identity professionals

“Coming up on six years, we’ve done a lot of the things we promised our early members,” Glazer muses. “We’ve created a community, constructed an evolving body of knowledge, and built a certification. The next step is making IDPro a more sustainable, resilient organization in its own right, hiring professional staff to power it 24/7 in lieu of relying solely on volunteers.”

From there, it’s a simple matter of using that newly resilient organization to keep driving awareness. Glazer and his colleagues also intend to add more certifications over time while continuing to build out the association’s body of knowledge. Lastly, Glazer wants to create more opportunities for individuals and groups underrepresented in the profession, such as grants for attending conferences and events.

“There is still a need to create more identity practitioners,” Glazer concludes. “IDPro’s body of knowledge will never stop growing, and now with CIDPro, identity practitioners can truly show what they know. IDPro has the potential to change the identity market — and provide even more opportunities for my colleagues and I to give back to the industry.”

Joining the IDPro Community

You can learn more about joining IDPro by visiting its website. You can also hear my entire conversation with Ian in the episode Supporting the Identity Pro Community with Ian Glazer on the Hybrid Identity Protection (HIP) Podcast.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published under the title “A Professional Organization Designed for Identity Professionals” in the October 2022 edition of Cyber Defense Magazine.

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