How I Became A Cyber Security Practitioner

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The field of cyber security is super interesting. It’s constantly growing and evolving and there’s always something new to learn. Cyber Security is a very technical field, but I believe that the barrier to entry is less than getting into programming or hardware engineering. There are many aspects to cyber security, like everything else in life. There are those that learn the theory and utilize theory to influence others. There are those that learn the application and actually utilize their skills to positively (or sometimes negatively) impact an organization. Regardless of which direction you take, the field of cyber security is a thrilling and exciting one. I’m going to share how I got started and share some possible next steps.

How I got Started

I started my career fresh out of college in the IT field. I joined an aerospace company working through an IT rotation program. This program was designed to expose folks fresh out of college to different areas within an IT organization. My first rotation wasn’t the best. I was working with SQL data and while I learned a lot, it didn’t really inspire me to wake up every morning. My second rotation exposed me to the wonderful world of Linux and I fell in love. I didn’t know much about Linux (an operating system similar to Mac OS and Windows), but the thought of doing everything over a command line made me feel like I was hacking. I didn’t jump straight into cyber security though. I would learn about managing servers, disaster recovery plans, and maintaining a service level agreement first. I learned all these things because of work, but then I realized there was so much more I could explore. In 2015, I enrolled to Washington University in St. Louis and began my journey as a cyber security specialist.

Formal Education

I took a 6 class certificate course study at my local university. There, I learned the fundamentals of cyber security, learned how to hack, and learned everything I know today. As part of my studies there, I took courses that trained me to take official cyber security certifications such as Security+, Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and the highly coveted Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certifications. After a year of studying, I ended up getting two out of the 3 certifications mentioned above. I didn’t pass the CISSP, mainly because I wasn’t prepared to take the exam in the new format. I waited too long and they changed thing up and I wasn’t ready for that change.

Work Education

With a couple certifications under my belt and a graduate certificate, I was ready to take on the world professionally. I applied to roles that exposed me more to the world of cyber security. I worked with more servers, scripted more, and eventually even got a security clearance. Everything was going well except I wasn’t really working on things that mattered to me. I eventually left the field to pursue something that paid me a little better but my passion for cyber security never left.

Next Steps

My first recommendation is that if you want to get into this field is check out YouTube. There are so many free resources on this topic that there’s no reason why you can’t jump in. Be curious and find information. There’s so much of it out there and if you really want to learn this stuff, there’s no reason why you can’t. Additionally, if you really do want the formal education, then check out your local community college or Udemy for affordable training. But most importantly, join a community and learn together.

In a future post, I’ll be discussing more of my journey post formal and work education. I’m 100% committed to learning how to be a great cyber security practitioner and I want to bring you along my journey.

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