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Veteran Ashley Sequeira earns online cyber operations degree while working full-time, teaching

If teaching adjunct at two schools while a student in Boise State University’s online Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience wasn’t impressive enough, Ashley Sequeira also landed a job at Google long before graduation.

Ashley Sequeira
Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience graduate Ashley Sequeira. Photo provided by Ashley Sequeira.

“I taught martial arts for twenty-something years,” she said. “I am a black belt. I was also an instructor in the United States Army. I have always had the teaching bug, but it is so much stronger of a delivery when I am talking about cybersecurity.”

Sequeira, who is on track to graduate with a 4.0 GPA in May 2023, teaches at Boise State and Sacramento City College, where she earned one of her five associate degrees.

Success Even Before Graduation

“When I first applied for the master’s program, I thought, ‘Do I want to do it? Is it going to help? Am I going to learn anything?’ It did. I learned something in every class. It met — and exceeded — some expectations.”

Less than 12 months into the program, Sequeira started a position as security technical sales program lead at Google.

“I was working for another cybersecurity firm before I started at Boise State, but Google poached me from my last company,” she said. “I was able to speak to things that I did in the master’s program in my interviews, and even in the way I am having conversations with leaders in my organization. I hear myself speaking and articulating in different ways because of what I have learned.”

With so much on her plate, the online format was essential for Sequeira to be able to earn an advanced degree and balance life, work and school.

“Online is the only way I could get anything done anymore,” she said. “I travel a lot for work. When I first started at Boise State, it was during COVID-19. It made a lot more sense to do that online format. Plus, I can travel and do school from anywhere.”

Forward, March

Sequeira was born in Georgia, but she grew up in Sacramento. When she wasn’t working on her martial arts, computers sparked her interest.

“I watched the movie Hackers in 1996, and it had computer security in the story,” she said. “My dad is also an engineer who got me into computers early and was super encouraging.

“After I attempted to go to college the first time and was not able to stay, I started looking at tech and information technology.”

During her 13-year career in the armed forces, Sequeira received formal IT training to prepare for her civilian career. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in general studies, with an emphasis in criminal justice and IT, from Southern New Hampshire University in 2019.

“I did my Security+ certification and, for me, that was it,” she said. “I knew it was absolutely what I want to do for the rest of my life. This was six years ago.”

Helping Other Career Changers Learn Python

As Sequeira heads down the home stretch of the online graduate cyber degree, she is completing an independent study project.

“I am writing a Python course from scratch, from the perspective of all of my career-changers from a completely different field in cybersecurity,” she said. “When I came into security, if you knew programming it was nice, but it wasn’t a requirement.

“We have definitely shifted focus where it really feels like you need more of it. Everyone struggled with the Python courses in the program, so I am building it from scratch to help fill that gap. It will be part of the new applied computing, systems and network certificate.”

Cyber Digital and Signal Intelligence was Sequeira’s favorite course in the program.

“The instructor is a director at Dragos,” she said. “It was one of the best classes I have ever taken. I learned a lot. I was humbled a bit on one of the assignments, and it made me re-think how I approached it. I still ended up getting an ‘A’ in the course.”

Raising the Bar

Sequeira, who lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico, with her husband, plans to be on hand to receive her degree in person.

“I thought it was important to actually be a part of it, so I will definitely be there,” she said. “My dad got his bachelor’s degree, but I will be the first one in my immediate family to finish a master’s degree.

“My mom got all the way to the thesis of a master’s program, and then she didn’t turn it in. I will have officially gone further in education than my parents. My family and friends are excited for me.”

Having already seen the results of enrolling at Boise State, Sequeira believes having a master’s degree will continue to create opportunities in her career.

“I help coordinate training for all of the security operations engineers and our sales organization,” she said. “It’s still kind of a teaching role. I am basically like a Google party planner for engineers.

“I was a systems engineer at my last company, so I understand what they go through. I can take the big picture and put it together. The master’s program helped me improve on that particular skill set because I didn’t have that tool before.”

With all of her teaching experience, Sequeira plans to continue on the same path and help improve the community where she lives.

“I like everything, but my passion is in education,” she said. “I would like to maybe pursue a doctorate down the road. I am in a smaller state that can benefit from improvements in the 8th-12th-grade age range.

“The way we do K-12 isn’t working for everybody. There are kids that are bored, kids that need more than teachers talking to them in a classroom. I want to make a school for kids who maybe do better learning hands-on, maybe learn to code and get actual job skills to go into the market.”

No matter what the future holds, Sequeira is happy that she found her way to enroll at Boise State University.

“Sin Ming Loo, who is the program director for the Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience, is awesome,” she said. “He took the time, talked to me, explained, ‘Hey, we’re a new program, but we want to hear feedback from people in the industry. As you’re taking courses, feel free to toss that feedback in there.’”

“I did, and there have already been so many positive changes. Everyone in the program is there to help and support you — even the other students. The price is also great. For $15,000, I can’t complain.”

Learn More About the Online Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience

Boise State Online’s graduate cyber degree helps future cyber professionals acquire the skills needed to succeed in the cyber operations field. Earn your degree from wherever you are with 100% online courses. Contact a student success coach to get started!

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