This week in #EducationNow, we continue to celebrate Cybersecurity Awareness Month and its importance in education. Join us for a blog on how Cisco Networking Academy is empower students to pursue futures in cybersecurity.
In celebration of cybersecurity awareness month, I had the great pleasure of chatting with four Cisco Networking Academy students from around the world who work in the fast-growing cybersecurity field to learn about what got them to where they are today. Each have a different role – from penetration tester to technical trainer – and came to their careers in different ways. But one thing is clear: Cisco Networking Academy helped them get there.
Jordan Suprenant, IT Systems and Security Analyst
“The hands-on experience I gained through both the in-person and virtual labs was key. I was able to take what I learned and apply it in my career.”
Jordan Suprenant was always interested in technology. From a young age, she had a knack for programming and other types technology, so when her fourth grade class started having “tech days,” she attended every one. “I knew this was going to be the next big thing,” she says. Raised in a small town more than three hours north of New York City, Jordan discovered Cisco Networking Academy at State University of New York Adirondack Community College where she took networking and cybersecurity courses.
Now, one year later, Jordan is an IT systems and security analyst and is on her way to completing her bachelor’s degree in computer security at State University of New York Plattsburgh – but she’s not stopping there. She founded a Women in Cybersecurity chapter at the university and is the co-director for the campus’ Center for Cybersecurity. Her advice for other women wanting to join the field: “Never give up and stick with it. Just know that you do belong in the industry,” she says.
Krister Aavikko, Technical Trainer
“Due to the knowledge and hands-on technical experience I gained through Networking Academy, I was quickly able to differentiate myself from other new hires.”
Originally from Finland, 39-year-old Krister Aavikko discovered Cisco Networking Academy later in life. After moving to Germany in 2012, Krister attended Multi-Media Berufsbildende School in Hannover, a Cisco Networking Academy, where he obtained his degree in information technology and took CCNA: Routing and Switching and CCNA: Security courses. “The reason I joined Networking Academy was because of my age and prior experience with IT, and because I had never really learned the fundamentals of modern networking,” says Krister.
Since 1999, Krister has worked on and off professionally in IT in roles like location manager, customer service, and PC service manager. But he credits his Cisco Networking Academy courses with landing him his first job after college as a systems engineer. Today, Krister is a technical trainer teaching at a cloud security services company teaching internal employees and external partners about IT security, email security, and cybersecurity products. “I really like being able to share the wealth of knowledge about IT security that has been passed on to me over the years by my colleagues and teachers,” he says.
Minju Kwak, Cybersecurity Associate
“When I was a student, I wasn’t sure I even wanted a career in networking. But the simulations and labs Networking Academy provided proved my knowledge and I knew it was what I wanted to pursue. It made a huge difference in my confidence.”
Cybersecurity professional Minju Kwak, 24, does not back away from a challenge. While in college pursuing her bachelor’s degree in networking at Yeungjin University, she witnessed many of her female students dropping out of the IT/cybersecurity field, largely because of the “feeling of male preference” in the hiring process. Determined, she completed all the reading and labs, which were in English, not her native language.
After graduation, she began looking for a job and found there was more opportunity for her in cybersecurity. Today, Minju is a cybersecurity associate specializing in information security at a security service company “In my job, I find the best way to maintain and improve current cybersecurity solutions that protect PII,” says Minju. “My favorite part is finding the best uses for current solutions and finding new ways to improve them while looking for synergy between the two.” When asked what advice she would give to women wanting to join field she quickly replied, “Don’t give up. Work through it. Once you join the industry there are a lot of good leaders and experienced engineers who will help you.”
Ronnie Bartwitz, Penetration Tester and Security Analyst
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without my background in networking. A lot of people go straight to cybersecurity, but it’s a hinderance. “Not knowing the basics of firewalls, ports, and other elements puts people at a disadvantage.”
At age sixteen Ronnie Bartwitz built his first computer, and by nineteen he was working in cybersecurity on a top-secret project with members of the intelligence community. He always knew he wanted an exciting career in tech, so in tenth grade he took his first Cisco Networking Academy course, IT Essentials at his high school. “I had an amazing instructor who introduced me to not only the basics, but the CCNA portable command guide. From there, I made my first fully functioning network – super cool,” says Ronnie.
Hungry to learn more, Ronnie taught himself cybersecurity skills through websites and other tools, and continued his education through Networking Academy and others, earning twelve industry certifications – not to mention numerous awards. Today, Ronnie has two jobs in the cybersecurity field – penetration tester and security analyst – splitting his time between experimenting with security protocols in all types of environments and maintaining enterprise software in a classified environment.