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A full-circle journey: Robert E. Wiley Jr.’s path to cybersecurity

Robert Wiley
Robert E. Wiley, Jr.

In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, cybersecurity is a captivating field with growing career prospects. Robert E. Wiley Jr. embarked on a remarkable journey from working as a U.S. Air Force fleet manager to graduating with a Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience from Boise State University and becoming a governance risk and compliance cyber analyst. Wiley’s path to cybersecurity has come full circle through his unwavering passion for technology and determination to protect critical infrastructure.

Starting His Journey

Wiley discovered his love for technology at a young age when he received his first video game console. He was captivated by the challenge of manipulating the digital realm. “From that moment, I always thought I would be in that job somehow,” Wiley reminisced. This early fascination with technology set the stage for his future career in cybersecurity.

After pursuing an electronic engineering program at DeVry University, Wiley faced financial constraints that compelled him to make a change. He joined the U.S. Air Force, hoping to continue his education while serving. However, the locations he was stationed at did not offer degrees in computing or engineering. Despite these obstacles, Wiley’s technical skills and affinity for computers developed in various roles within the military, including working with computers and in network operation centers.

Returning to Idaho and Rediscovering His Passion

Upon completing his military service in 2021, Wiley returned to his beloved home state of Idaho. He initially pursued an MBA at Boise State but soon learned about the newly launched Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience. “It felt like I completed a full circle. I started in Idaho wanting to work in computing and to return to Idaho and have it come back to me … it really worked out. This was so perfect for me,” Wiley explained.

After enrolling in the Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience, Wiley found a renewed sense of purpose as he was motivated to bridge his military background, technical expertise and governance risk and compliance knowledge. The program’s comprehensive curriculum, encompassing topics and hands-on instruction allowed him to connect his past experiences with his passion for electronics and infrastructure protection.

Gaining Skills and Making Connections

The cyber operations and resilience program equipped Wiley with valuable knowledge that built on his military background. “In the military, I was always a little aware that a hack could happen; it was just in the back of my mind. Being in the cyber program [taught me about] the number of opportunities hackers have on everyday people. You don’t realize what is at stake until you are reading about it all the time,” Wiley said.

“Every instructor introduced us to so many different scenarios. It is truly astounding to learn about the tactics, techniques and procedures of different kinds of adversaries. Each class builds on the last class to emphasize what could happen.”

The program also provided opportunities for networking and professional development. Wiley collaborated with Adam Brendan, a lead cybersecurity analyst from Boise State’s Institute for Pervasive Cybersecurity, to prepare for the CompTIA CySa+ exam and pursued internships with The Peregrine Fund and Idaho’s Office of the Governor.

At The Peregrine Fund, Wiley adapted his “defense in depth” perspective to work with limited budgets and creatively use free tools to bolster cybersecurity measures. In the governor’s office, Wiley encountered a different scenario when he had to use abundant resources and advanced tools to enhance security. These experiences solidified his belief in reducing attack surfaces and optimizing security measures, regardless of the budget.

Making an Impact

With a desire to share his knowledge and mentor others, Wiley took on a role as a teaching assistant within the master’s program. Guiding students through complex concepts and helping them grasp the core principles of cybersecurity became a fulfilling endeavor. “I think that working with so many people online truly improved my soft skills,” Wiley said. “[This position] gave me the opportunity to see where someone else is coming from and thoughtfully compose a response tailored to them.”

Wiley advises new students to keep an open mind when starting the Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience. “The information you are going to get can be overwhelming,” he said. “You cannot be an expert in all of it. If you have the opportunity, dabble in everything you can to find what you like. Don’t dismiss anything. Dabble in everything because it might spark something.”

Achievements and Future Aspirations

Wiley’s dedication to cybersecurity has yielded tangible results, and he is now employed as a governance risk and compliance cyber analyst at Procellis Technology Inc. Working alongside classmate Cody Stokes, Wiley leverages his expertise every day to assist colleges and universities in strengthening their infrastructure for grants and future government funding.

Looking ahead, Wiley envisions pursuing a doctoral degree in cybersecurity. He hopes to focus on integrating governance risk and compliance practices with impactful businesses, helping organizations understand the need for specific tools and effectively mitigating risks. Driven by a desire to revolutionize the cyber industry, Wiley also considers starting his own company.

Learn More About Cyber Operations and Resilience

Boise State’s online Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience helps professionals — like Robert E. Wiley, Jr. — 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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