By Jessica Bond
After my husband and I got married in June 2020, I began to focus on financial stability in retirement. That was what initially led to the decision to attend college and aim for a career change. One month after the wedding, I enrolled in the Cybersecurity and Computer Forensics Program at Peninsula College. This program is a two-year associate’s degree program that prepares students for entry-level cybersecurity positions.
I was a little nervous to start because I had never been a gamer or had an extensive background in technology. Most of my prior work experience was in radiology and pond maintenance, so I knew I would have a steeper learning curve than others with more experience. I was really fascinated by cybersecurity and information technology though and knew these skills could benefit almost any profession.
There was a bit of an adjustment period during the first quarter while I learned to balance work, classes, and homework. It didn’t take long though to figure out the teachers’ expectations and create a weekly schedule which I was able to follow pretty much throughout the entire program.
Peninsula College was wonderful to work with right from the beginning. I was surprised by how smooth it was to enroll in classes, pay tuition, and find the books and supplies needed for each class. I was extremely appreciative of how encouraging and supportive the staff and Information Technology and Cybersecurity program coordinator, Erik Waterkotte, were. The classes and staff enthusiastically provided all the support necessary to successfully complete the program and understand the foundational complexities of technology. I was able to start the program at a beginner level and end by graduating in June 2022 with a 4.0 GPA.
There were also flexibilities around students with time constraints. For example, consideration was given to my work schedule and making sure I had access to assignments. You have to do the work, but the staff is also there to help you succeed.
About halfway through the program, I (sadly) left my job at Full Spectrum Landscaping to create space in my schedule to search for internship opportunities. A month later, I began a three-month internship, which transitioned into a job, at IT Support Services working with Roger Sanders, the business owner, and Rhys Crawford, the lead technician. IT Support Services is a managed service provider that does systems administration and network engineering for local public works, law firms, a printing company, a grocery store, and healthcare organizations. We specialize in bringing enterprise-level networks and systems to small and medium-sized businesses. Working with such a high level of professionalism and expertise has profoundly increased my experience and skill level. I have been at IT Support Services for a year now and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience and an absolutely delightful place to work.
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in the WiCyS Security Training Scholarship hosted by Women in Cybersecurity, SANS Institute, Google, Bloomberg, and Meta. The scholarship was structured in tiers. Each tier had a cybersecurity challenge that primarily used hacking, password cracking, file forensics, and social engineering techniques to solve. Eight hundred participants competed in Tier I, which was a three-day “Capture the Flag” cybersecurity challenge. The top two hundred and fifty places advanced to Tier II, which was a more intensive thirty-day cybersecurity challenge. I was honored to place in the top two hundred and fifty and receive an invitation to Tier II. I thought it was a great testament to the Peninsula College Cybersecurity and Computer Forensics program that I was able to place in the top 31%.
For anyone hesitant to get into tech because they don’t have the experience yet, I want to encourage you to jump in! It can only change your life for the better and lead to a career you will love.
Learn more at catalog.pencol.edu/cybersecurity.