Cyber Student Spotlight: Jahhan Stewart

Graduate breaks through the cybersecurity glass ceiling in 6 months and is still being recruited by cyber employers

Did the Mission Critical Institute cyber curriculum help you become cybersecurity job-ready?
Yes, it was tremendously helpful. I completed my risk management graduate coursework in early 2017, and landed a job with my current employer within three to six months. I’m still getting calls from other employers looking for candidates with my educational background and skills. Plus, my current employer encourages me to interview internally for security-related positions to continue advancing my career.

What made you decide to go back to school?
Although, I already held an MBA and master’s in information technology degree, I learned I also needed some type of certificate to move to the next level. That’s how I found the Mission Critical Institute risk management program.

What made you choose the Mission Critical Institute cyber graduate program over others?
While still working full-time, I began looking for a security certificate or certification bootcamp, but I felt the topics required additional time to understand – more than what a bootcamp offers – so I decided to sign up for the graduate program.

What did you do before starting the Mission Critical Institute cyber program?
I had been working in IT for about 20 years in various positions, most recently as a senior messaging administrator. I’m always eager to learn more and better myself. I research the latest technologies, get a feel what’s going to be in demand, and if I need to go to school to learn how to use and apply those technologies, I take classes.

What held you back from advancing in cybersecurity?
I experienced one barrier after another to move to the next level, whether in my salary or job position, but I never gave up. Despite holding multiple degrees, I learned I needed some type of certificate or certification. Then, I found Mission Critical Institute’s graduate program, a cybersecurity education provider, and it gave me the credentials I needed to break into cybersecurity.

What are you doing now?
I am a systems analyst for a major investment and asset management firm, where I implement security control policies.

Did you achieve an industry certification, such as the CISSP, CAP, or CEH (or are you studying for an exam)?
Before starting the risk management program, I had several certifications: Lotus Notes, MCSE, Novell Engineer, and Cisco. Since then, my focus turned to cybersecurity and penetration testing, so I earned the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) first and I am currently studying for the CISSP. I recently became a Certified Cybersecurity Cloud Risk Management Professional (CCRMP) by finishing the Mission Critical Institute cyber courses.

Did Mission Critical Institute faculty help you find a job?
When I was looking for a job, the instructors acted as mentors, providing advice on updating my resume to make it more appealing to employers and guiding me through my job search.

Did your fellow students help you advance your career?
Yes, I networked with other risk management students and we exchanged tips in class for finding job opportunities and landing the position you want.

Cyber Student Spotlight: Marquita Middleton

With a bachelor’s degree and years of IT job experience under her belt, Marquita Middleton faced a layoff. That setback turned into an opportunity to pursue a risk management cyber graduate certificate and push her career to the next level.

We interviewed Marquita to find out why she chose a Mission Critical Institute-sponsored cyber graduate program and how it’s impacted her career.

What were you doing before you joined the Mission Critical Institute-sponsored cyber graduate program? What made you decide to go back to school?
I earned a bachelor’s in information science and had worked in IT for 15 years in various analyst positions, the last of which was a security analyst. I actually applied for the Mission Critical Institute program in 2016 but my work schedule was crazy. I wanted a master’s degree but didn’t think I had enough free time to finish a degree while working. Then I got laid off. That prompted me to look at my options even more closely and the direction I wanted my career to take. I was in no rush to go back to work. A friend was already in a Mission Critical Institute cyber graduate program and highly recommended it.

What made you choose the Mission Critical Institute cyber graduate program over others?
I looked at another master’s program but it wasn’t as flexible as the Mission Critical Institute program. My friend’s recommendation tipped the scale for me.

What stage are you at in the cyber graduate program? Did you, or do you plan to, pursue the cyber MBA?
I’m currently working toward a risk management graduate certificate and am in the third of five classes. I should complete the program by February or March 2018. I recently got a job as a controls administrator at a consulting firm, and because my time is more manageable, I’m considering an MBA too.

What aspects of the cyber curriculum are the most helpful in becoming cybersecurity job-ready?
Because of my job experience, I knew about security controls but hadn’t formally studied them until now. When a friend mentioned a controls administrator job opening with her employer, I applied (apprehensively). And I got the job! I believe the fact that I was currently studying security controls and learning how to apply them through the NIST Risk Management Framework (RMF) was what helped me land the job.

How have faculty helped you advance your career?
I took my first two cyber graduate classes with Prof. Hudnall. (Editor’s note: Dana Hudnall is a retired U.S. Navy Chief Warrant Officer who has held several security and intelligence positions. He’s currently an adjunct professor with GIAC GSLC Gold certification.) When I was considering applying for the controls administrator job, I sent the description to Prof. Hudnall. He said “You’ve got this” and encouraged me to apply. His input was a real confidence-booster.

Is there anything else about the cyber graduate certificate program you find helpful?
I really appreciate the institutional announcements, like discussion board reminders, and the personable and encouraging communications from staff and faculty. The program is delivered 100% online, and those communications make me feel like I’m part of the community.

What have you found are the best ways to network?
Being more of an introvert than an extrovert, I prefer to reach out online or by phone rather than in person. So phone calls with professors are my first choice. I also connect with former colleagues via LinkedIn or by text.

More info:
How do I pick the best cybersecurity graduate program for me?: Part 1
How do I pick the best cybersecurity graduate program for me?: Part 2

Cyber Student Spotlight: Sean McMahon

With a bachelor’s degree in community studies, a master’s in media studies, and working in IT tech support for UC Berkeley, Sean McMahon noticed an ad for a graduate cyber program that could be completed online. It looked intriguing. The cybersecurity job market is booming and the thought of a cybersecurity career piqued his interest, so he thought, “Why not get more information and see where this goes?”

Sean went on to complete the Cybersecurity Risk Management Graduate Certificate Program (and is completing his Cyber MBA) at Concordia University, St. Paul (CSP) in partnership with Mission Critical Institute. Let’s see what he has to say about the program, its instructors, and why he recommends this approach for advancing your cybersecurity career.

What made you choose the Mission Critical Institute-developed Cybersecurity Risk Management Graduate Program over other programs?

I really liked the ability to become cyber job-ready by learning the NIST Risk Management Framework in the first 40 weeks, on the way to earning an MBA. I could also attend remotely via online classes, in the evening, so I didn’t have to relocate or quit my job to attend school. That was a big plus. Now, I’m on track to finish my MBA in 2018.

Another strong point of the program is that each (of the five) cybersecurity courses help to prepare you for cybersecurity certifications, including the Certified Authorization Professional (CAP) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) from (ISC)2, and the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) from EC-Council. I’m studying for the CAP now, and then I’ll pursue the CEH and CISSP. I’m also looking at getting a Cisco certification, such as the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Routing & Switching.

In what ways did faculty help you prepare for a new career?

The faculty were great–they always made themselves available to answer questions. They’re all experts in their respective fields, representing a wide range of industry’s, from healthcare to three-letter agencies, military, consulting, and so on.

I have used some faculty members as references on job applications (and will continue to do so), which I think boosts my credibility with prospective employers. Susan Cole was particularly helpful regarding potential government jobs and Eric Handy was always highly accessible.

Have your fellow students helped you advance your career? If so, in what ways?

I’ve connected with several classmates on LinkedIn. I can bounce questions off of them regarding job searches, and watch their progress as well. It’s a great way to stay in touch.

What have you found are the best ways to network?

I mainly use LinkedIn. I joined some groups on that site germane to my field, such as the Information Security Community led by Holger Schulze, an advanced persistent threats group, and one for homeland security.

Christine Olyer, Mission Critical Institute program manager, was a great source of inspiration and information. She recommended that I join one or more industry groups, like the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), to network with practitioners in the security field and learn about others’ perspectives.

Would you do it again?

Absolutely, I would recommend the program to anybody. I’m very happy with the quality of my education. The Mission Critical Institute program builds a good foundation for cybersecurity and risk management. I believe the program prepares you to be the type of cyber professional employers want.

Get insights on cybersecurity job trends from Eric Handy, Mission Critical Institute instructor:

Advance your cybersecurity career with Mission Critical Institute.