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Octavio Sarmiento: From cyber operations student to IT professional

Portrait of Octavio Sarmiento wearing a Boise State graduation cap and gown
Octavio Sarmiento. Photo provided by Sarmiento

In the dynamic realm of cybersecurity, individuals like Octavio Sarmiento stand as shining examples of success, embodying the transformative power of education and determination.

A graduate of Boise State’s online Bachelor of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience, Sarmiento’s story illuminates the path from student to cybersecurity professional, showcasing the pivotal role of specialized training in shaping a meaningful career in a growing technical field.

Discovering His Path

Sarmiento’s journey into the world of cybersecurity wasn’t linear. Exploring various fields of study, Sarmiento initially pursued criminal justice before realizing it wasn’t his desired career path. After obtaining an associate degree from Tritan College in Chicago, Sarmiento returned to Idaho, a place he deeply cherished for its community, safety and opportunities. It was during this time that Sarmiento rediscovered his passion for learning.

Sarmiento reflected on his journey, saying, “I woke up one day and realized I needed to get my life together. I started reading a book a week, every single week. Delving into finance, budgeting and personal development. Eventually, I felt the need for a catalyst for my life to get my life centered.”

After this period of devouring knowledge, Sarmiento realized he wanted to find a career path. “I did a bunch of research as far as career paths,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to go back to school, but all the reading I had done made me feel ready to take on that challenge.”

The Decision to Pursue Cybersecurity

Guided by the experiences of his brother, Arsenio, and sister, Alondra, who were also exploring careers in cybersecurity, Sarmiento learned about how many career opportunities and directions there were. Despite initial apprehensions about returning to school, he recognized the value of continuous learning, propelled by his voracious reading habits. With no prior experience in cybersecurity, Sarmiento embarked on his educational journey.

Enrolling in Boise State’s undergraduate cyber operations and resilience program, Sarmiento leaped into a world of knowledge and skill development. Despite initial apprehensions about returning to school, his insatiable thirst for learning and his self-educated background served him well.

“Books are the greatest resource for everyone,” he emphasized, underscoring his commitment to continuous self-improvement. “Starting with no experience at all, I felt overwhelmed but also excited to learn. The program provided me with a solid foundation and hands-on experience,  preparing me for the challenges ahead.”

With the online setting, Sarmiento was able to study at his own pace and interact with classmates in discussion posts. He offered advice on how to get the most out of learning in an online discussion, saying, “I would say provide feedback on why you believe the inverse or you see something else. It’s not about being antagonistic but about encouraging a healthy discussion with some discourse and can break up the monotony of everyone just complimenting each other.”

Navigating the Job Market

After graduating from the program in August, Sarmiento faced the daunting task of entering the job market without prior experience. Recognizing the importance of gaining practical skills, he secured an IT help desk analyst role at the Nampa School District. “I’ve learned an incredible amount in just a short time,” he reflected, emphasizing the value of hands-on experience in honing his skills.

“It’s not your typical IT help desk role,” he explained. “I’m involved in managing Active Directory, utilizing Azure, and repairing devices for students. Every day presents new challenges, and I thrive in this fast-paced environment.”

Sarmiento’s career goals don’t culminate with his current employment. He is actively pursuing certifications from CompTIA to augment his expertise, leveraging resources like TryHackMe and CBT Nuggets. “I firmly believe this is just the beginning,” Sarmiento asserted confidently.

His aspirations extend beyond proficiency; he envisions mastering the intricacies of cybersecurity governance, fueled by a passion for continuous learning and personal growth. “I’m a lifelong learner,” Sarmiento emphasized. “The opportunity to work on certifications while on the job is invaluable. It not only enhances my expertise but also opens doors to future opportunities in cybersecurity.”

Looking ahead, Sarmiento envisions a career path that merges his passion for cybersecurity with his interest in entrepreneurial endeavors. “I believe in paving my own road to success,” he shared. “With determination and continuous learning, I’m confident I’ll achieve my goals.”

Networking and Mentorship

Throughout his journey, Sarmiento acknowledged the pivotal role of networking and mentorship. “The security community I’ve encountered is comprised of genuinely supportive individuals,” he remarked.

Mentors from the program, like instructor Kody Walker and staff member Elizabeth Khan, have played instrumental roles in shaping his career trajectory, underscoring the significance of collaboration and shared knowledge in professional development.

Reflecting on his experiences, Sarmiento recognizes the value of diverse perspectives and critical thinking. “I wish I had engaged more with my peers,” he admitted, highlighting the importance of embracing differing viewpoints and actively seeking opportunities for dialogue and debate.

He encourages future students to cultivate an environment of intellectual curiosity and leaning on peers. The cyber operations and resilience program offers a Discord channel for students to share cybersecurity articles, ask questions and build a community.

Sarmiento’s journey from a student navigating career uncertainties to a budding cybersecurity professional exemplifies the transformative power of education and perseverance. His story serves as a testament to the importance of adaptability, continuous learning and seizing opportunities in the ever-evolving field of cybersecurity. As Sarmiento forges ahead on his career path, his unwavering commitment to growth and excellence sets him apart as an inspiring figure in the cybersecurity landscape.

Written by Marissa Wilson.