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It is never too late to start your cybersecurity career

At times, a person enters a career and works in their field for a few years to a long period of time. Traditionally, workers often stay within their careers up until retirement. However, a special group of people realize there is something else for them. These people are called career changers, and as the years progress, the United States has seen more people changing their careers.

A 2021 Fast Company Harris Poll found that 52% of people in the workforce are contemplating changing careers. The rise in career changes can be seen with the type of people returning to school to receive a new degree from Boise State University.

Boise State’s cyber operations and resilience program has seen various students come from many non-cybersecurity and non-technology backgrounds. Although they lacked cyber experience starting this new career, the program has been able to help many overcome the learning curve and ultimately find success.

Elizabeth Khan
Elizabeth Khan. Photo provided by Khan.

Learn how the following students were able to transition into the world of cybersecurity and cyber resilience: Elizabeth Khan, Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience alumnus, Theresa May, Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience student and Christian Hines, Bachelor of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience student.

Diverse Backgrounds

The cyber operations and resilience program’s online format has allowed students from around the world to apply. These students have different stories and backgrounds that led them to become aspiring cybersecurity professionals.

Christian Hines
Christian Hines. Photo provided by Hines.

Khan and Hines had numerous career experiences before reaching for their bachelor’s degrees. Khan ran a successful Hollywood talent consultancy and eventually transitioned into compliance and risk work within the chemical sector while getting her bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies, focusing on public health, at Boise State University. Hines spent about ten years working various jobs, eventually working in audio and video production at a local news station and university until enrolling in the program.

There are even folks in the program, like May, who also had a non-technical master’s degree but decided to return to school and get a second master’s degree. She first started her work journey as a certified public accountant, earning a bachelor’s in accounting. She worked her way up to become a chief finance officer. After about 12 years in accounting, she decided to pursue a master’s in pastoral studies and spent about ten years doing missionary work in Peru.

Why Cybersecurity?

Theresa May
Theresa May. Photo provided by May.

With cybersecurity being such a niche skill, some may wonder how someone who films news, crunches numbers or leads businesses decides to transition into the field. May was fortunate to have a daughter who was working in computer science as a programmer and inspired her to look into cybersecurity. She also stated, “I plan to live to be 130 years old, so I am going to need another career to live the next half of my life.”

Khan found this program serendipitously when doing her capstone during her bachelor’s program. She was intrigued by the program’s governance, risk and compliance track and decided that this program would help with her entrepreneurial path. Two weeks after graduating with her bachelor’s degree, she enrolled in the master’s program.

Hines also shared that serendipitous feeling. After many years in audio/visual production, he wanted to shift his career focus to the technological side. He tried different avenues and took different courses until he found the cyber operations and resilience program on a whim. In his first semester, he decided to try it out and said, “Yup! This is exactly what I was looking for.”

He was really intrigued by the courses such as CPS 100 Fundamentals of Cybersecurity. Each week, he learned different types of malware, digital forensic tools and cyber threat groups. “There was something that pulled you in a little more,” Hines said.

All Resilience, No Regrets

With the already abundant vacancies for many cybersecurity jobs across the country that are hard to fill, the cyber operations and resilience program has offered many opportunities and tools for students to learn. Not only are students taking classes to learn about cybersecurity and cyber resilience, but they also have access to free online course training and certificates from resources like Cisco Networking Academy and Palo Alto Academy.

Although their stories are just beginning, these career changers are already seeing success. Hines has immersed himself in the field. As he is working on his bachelor’s degree, he has been helping the CORe Learning Lab create virtualized digital forensic simulation and tools, and he hopes to work in digital forensics and incident response planning in the future.

May is breaking out of her comfort zone and has learned many new skills since entering this program. She is steering towards an engineering path and is continuing to work on her skills in security programming.

After graduating, Khan was able to continue with her compliance career as an auditor for a hospital and also plans to launch her own business. She has also returned to the program as an instructor and assistant, helping future cybersecurity professionals achieve success as well.

Career changers within the cyber operations and resilience program continue to show determination and hard work. They go through trials and tribulations, determining if their initial career was the right choice and if they should go back to school or change careers. There is a special formula for people to pivot and decide to become career changers. However, the formula is not the same for everyone.

May is grateful for the asynchronous and online format of the class so she can go back to school in the first place. Hines says that out of all the years he went through to get to this point in his life, he would not be where he is now without his wife and her support.

Although this story only covers three career changers, more students within the program have similar and unique stories. However, one thing is common: Boise State’s cyber operations and resilience program has been beneficial in stepping into a career in cybersecurity.

“This program has been transformational…[it] inspires others to think differently and not just to produce generic cybersecurity professionals,” Khan said.

Hines stated, “After graduating high school, I thought I had everything figured out…but it took me ten years to even get my associate’s degree. However, I would not be here today without my failures and it is something to not be ashamed about.”

Learn More about Boise State’s Cyber Programs

There should be no regrets in deciding to go back to school or going to school to change careers. Boise State’s online Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience invite all experiences and backgrounds. Students do not need to have a background in technology or cybersecurity to be successful in this program.

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By Ranier Lieberman