Occupation: Security Engineer, Hughes Network Systems,
Education: Northwest HS, Edison HS of Technology (Network Operations Program), Montgomery College, University of Maryland University College
You have a master’s degree in cybersecurity and work on protecting systems from hackers. When did you know this was the career for you?
Growing up, I wanted to be a doctor or a professional soccer player. In my senior year of high school I had all of my credits so I enrolled in the Network Operations program at the Edison HS for technology. I learned so much about computers and I was hungry to learn more. Even though I attended for just half of the day, it was an intensive experience that paved the way for where I am today.
I learned the technical skills that helped me hit the ground running when I went to college and when I looked for a job. When I interviewed for my current position, I had to analyze and diagnose problems and figure out solutions. That troubleshooting method is exactly what I learned in the Network Ops program. In the labs, we were doing the work of real IT professionals.
Do you think your high school experience gave you a competitive advantage?
Definitely. It gave me an edge in college, when I did internships, and when I landed my job. Through the Network Ops program, I learned how to be more responsible, work on a team, put forth my best effort always, and how to never give up. In college, I was probably rejected 100 times for internships but I stuck with it until one person from a small company said yes. That company and my current place of employment were both familiar with the program I attended at Edison. I had the skills they were looking for, as well as the experience and work ethic.
You’re 27 and seem to have it all. Would you consider yourself a success?
I come from humble beginnings and wanted a future for myself that would make my parents proud. At age 24, I bought my own house. At 25, I bought my mother her dream car and when I was 26 I bought my dream car. But those aren’t the only measures of success. Mr. McGee, my network ops teacher, always emphasized the importance of continuing our studies. Even today, I hear his words in everything I do. I just completed a bootcamp paid for by my employer and received advanced certification in my field. And, I’m thinking about getting a Ph.D in cybersecurity. For me, success will continue to evolve.
Do you have any advice for students?
Be open to all of the opportunities MCPS has to offer. It’s pretty incredible to think that in high school you can get college credit, IT certifications, and real career experience for FREE. I found out about the network ops program purely by chance but it’s been the ace up my sleeve. The light switch didn’t go off for me until I was a senior and I was fortunate to have the exposure to a field that is now my passion.