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Online graduate cyber program leads Cody Stokes to a fulfilling career

Cody Stokes with his wife and four children
Cody Stokes with his family

Cody Stokes is a shining example of someone who refused to let the past define his future. Prior to enrolling in the online Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience at Boise State University, Stokes served in the Marine Corps and earned a bachelor’s degree in history — but he found it unfulfilling. He worked odd jobs for years before getting a chance to pursue vocational training through the Department of Veterans Affairs. His research into various career options led him down a path of discovery, ultimately landing him in the field of cybersecurity.

Overcoming Challenges

When Stokes enrolled in the cyber operations program, he was a father of four working full-time as a field service technician at St. Luke’s. Despite the challenge of juggling work, family and school, he was determined to finish the program in one year. Stokes admitted that year was one of the hardest of his life, but his dedication and hard work paid off.

The technical aspect of the curriculum proved to be one of the biggest hurdles. To prepare himself, he undertook personal study before starting the program, aiming to better understand computing, networking and system engineering. He even completed several crash courses through Coursera during the program’s start. Nevertheless, the Blackhat Python course proved particularly challenging as the virtual machine sometimes behaved differently than he expected. He spent time during office hours to get extra assistance and persevered through the Python challenges.

Blending Cyber with Business

Stokes was exposed to many industry-standard security analysis and management documents from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the International Organization for Standardization. The program’s broad, high-level approach gave him a holistic view of the business and technical side of the security coin.

“(The program is) a mile wide and about 10 feet deep, whereas some other programs may be 10 feet wide and 20 miles deep,” Stokes said.

Stokes wanted to jump straight into his career in cybersecurity as soon as he graduated, so he started looking for a full-time position during his last semester. Procellis Technologies Incorporated hired him for the compliance services department as a security analyst, and shortly after starting his new career, his boss left. Stokes, armed with his master’s degree, was the most qualified person in his department. He was promoted to cybersecurity manager and is now tasked with building an entire program for the compliance services department, which provides governance risk and compliance consulting for small and medium-sized businesses.

He said much of how he designs the compliance program is based on the material he learned in the graduate cyber operations and resilience program. Stokes’s work also involves Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification accreditation, which enables the company to help contractors get Level 2 certified for government contracts.

On a Path to Success

Stokes’s success in his current company is due in part to the skills and knowledge he gained while at Boise State. He says the program gave him a comprehensive understanding of cybersecurity that allows him to change the conversation from technical or tool management into business management. He believes cybersecurity leaders need to speak a language that CEOs and senior leaders understand, especially from a cost management perspective.

“You don’t want security to be an afterthought,” he said “The only way to do that is to speak in a language that leaders understand.”

The cyber operations program at Boise State University has been instrumental in changing Stokes’s life, providing him with a career he is passionate about. His dedication, hard work and willingness to learn led him to a fulfilling career in cybersecurity. His story is an inspiration to anyone who feels stuck in a dead-end job or unfulfilling career. It’s always possible to change your path and pursue a new direction.

Learn More About Cyber Operations and Resilience

Boise State’s online Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience helps future cyber professionals — like Cody Stokes — 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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By Marissa Wilson