From Nothing to a Career in Cyber

2022-06-21
4 min read

In this blog, I’ll discuss some of my troubles in life getting started and how I really got the drive to move forward.

How It Started

I took advanced placement courses all throughout high school, I had one goal at this point, get a computer science degree. At this time universities were really telling parents that their kids need a secondary education. This was all happening between the year 2000 and 2005. I was told that going to university is the only option after high school.

University

Believing that I needed a post secondary degree, I got accepted to go to a university to study computer science. I performed very well on labs but did poorly in discrete mathematics. It was very interesting how they got me to write code on sheets of paper instead of using an actual computer. Either way, the professor told me that if I cannot pass the discrete mathematics course that I should not pursue a career in computers at all. This lead me down the road to my second passion which was music. When asking about jobs regarding their program they stated there would be work. About halfway through finishing this degree, the 2008 crash happened which had lasting effects on many industries. I had a decision to make, to finish the degree or to drop out. I decided to press onward and graduate, with a decent GPA in music, more specifically a specialization in audio recording and a minor in sociology.

Under Employment

Once I finished my degree in music with a minor in sociology, I looked for work anywhere I could find it. To say I was unsuccessful would be an understatement. The market was too saturated with people who already had jobs and there were no positions open anywhere. This lead me to working minimum wage jobs after university, which to pay off the mountain of dept was not easily possible. This pattern lead me down the road to where I completely broke, I ended up being completely unemployed and on social assistance. It was then I realized that I hit rock bottom, nothing but depression and anxiety about my financial future from here continue to plague my very existence.

How it Started Getting Better

It all started getting better when my caseworker told me to start learning about computers again. I could barely afford to eat, so it was very important for save what little money I could to invest in 5 dollar Udemy courses. This lead me into a major self learning adventure in C++, C and Python programming. After some time, I discovered Defcon talks on YouTube, these inspired me to attempt learning to be an ethical hacker. I would spend every day beginning to end when not taking care of my child trying to push myself forward and learn everything I can. Eventually both myself and my husband took minimum wage jobs again and did our best to establish a living. This was still very challenging, but eventually I got to attend a cybersecurity meetup in my area. This is when everything changed.

How it Improved

I then became a tier 1 cybersecurity analyst, then later moved into programming and then building an entire threat research and detection team. Again, I was working full time and have a family but took all that experience and drive to continue to push myself forward with self learning malware analysis and reverse engineering.

Lessons Learned

  • Universities want your money
  • Job markets matter
  • Don’t always believe what a mentor tells you, verify
  • Be Determined

Conclusion

I’m still working on improving my finacial standing to this day, I had spent the better part of a decade being underemployed or in poverty. These financial scars will now heal over time. I’m very confident that I’ll be debt free soon enough. Everyone faces adversity in their lives in one form or another, for me the 2008 crash and taking poor advice from a university professor pretty much destroyed me. I’m trying my best to make it my mission that the same situation does not happen to others.

Again, most of my drive and modivation came from being at the lowest point of my life. But this does not mean it has to be that way for you too.

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I have acquired over my career, skills that make me a nightmare for threat actors.