A passion for problem-solving: A college or recognized training certification certainly helps you acquire the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to work as a pentester; but a great hacker is a tenacious problem-solver at heart!
The ability to think outside the box: To defend against an attacker, you must think and act like one. This requires the ability to not only respect, but also think beyond routine practices like firewall reviews and scanning for known vulnerabilities.
A love of learning: Most professional hackers I know enjoy learning, which makes sense considering how fast the digital world moves. And that’s one of the many beauties of learning how to hack; there’s always new hardware, applications, concepts, and vulnerabilities to explore. You’re free to specialize, upskill, or pursue a career (it’s no secret that professional hackers/penetration testers are in extremely high demand) in whatever specialty you want.
When I started, there were fewer publicly available resources than there are now. Most of our learning was done via internet relay chat forums (IRCs) and learning from others in the community. You also had to download your own virtual machine or build a hacking lab at home for target practice. Nowadays, content and training are more accessible with cybersecurity training and upskilling platforms like Hack The Box (HTB).