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