David Vuong was teaching English Language Arts when he began exploring different programs that could help him change careers. After trying out other educational institutions, he joined a cohort at the Cybersecurity Professional Certificate Program offered by the College of Professional and International Education at California State University at Long Beach (CSULB).
Thanks to the new tech skills he gained from the program, David successfully switched careers and is now working as an IT Security Analyst.
Tell us about your background. What were you doing before attending the Cybersecurity Professional Certificate Program?
I was working as an English Language Arts Teacher when I attended this program. I chose a later cohort that would fit into my work schedule and explored programs at other educational institutions before committing to an introductory cohort for this program. The program came at the right time, as I was motivated to explore other options.
What motivated you to explore a new career or upskill in your current job? Also, why did you decide on this particular cybersecurity program?
A friend suggested exploring cybersecurity after considering a transition to another career. I picked this particular program because it was being offered at a reputable educational institution and the classes fit with my work schedule and availability. I decided to proceed with the extended program after learning that the content was also comprehensible.
How did you finance your education, and what were some of your biggest considerations when making this choice?
I financed it with my salary from the teaching job. Some of the considerations include the duration of the program, which, when compared to other bootcamps, seemed appealing. Apart from that, career support and certification also led me to choose the program at California State University.
What did you like about the program? What are the highlights?
I really enjoyed the anecdotes that my instructors provided about their day-to-day lives as cybersecurity practitioners. I also appreciated the time spent by the instructors for certification support, especially for CompTIA’s Network+ and Security+. The Career Services team also provided important resume reviews and mock technical interviews.
How did you fit the program into your schedule?
I chose a later cohort that fit into my work schedule and commitments. I studied for certifications during my spare time and made sure my classes were carefully arranged according to the suggested times throughout the program.
Can you give examples of projects that you worked on during the program?
One of the examples is the use of the Cisco Packet Tracer. We set up network interface cards, routing, and VLANs. This provided the necessary insight that was covered during technical interviews and on-the-job situations.
Do you have any advice for someone considering this program?
I would advise anyone who chooses this program to know that it is thorough and provides career and certification support. This program provided many opportunities to ensure that I understood what I was learning and helped me to hone my skills in interviews.
How did the program support your job hunts?
[Career services consultants] DeRon Jenkins and Kim Black supported me by reviewing my resume, providing job leads, and discussing how to effectively use job boards. The technical interviews helped to train me and I progressively got better at it.
Was the job search process different from what you expected?
The job search process was broad, given that there were several job boards we could use. Because the position titles were different, I received guidance in narrowing down the relevant positions I should apply to.
How many companies did you secure an interview with? What drove your decision to work with the company?
I was interviewed by approximately 15 companies for four months before I accepted the offer for my current position. I prioritized location, salary, and opportunities for growth when deciding which companies to apply to. The biggest factor that did it for me was that the company promised on-the-job training and that it would wait for me to finish the remainder of my teaching contract.
How are the skills you gained from the course useful in your current career?
Cloud computing, computer networking, Linux command line, and information security concepts are useful in my current career because I have to demonstrate this knowledge on a day-to-day basis. For example, during an emergency to bring up a Web Application Firewall, I had to utilize what I learned in Linux to locate a configuration file and make changes. Following that, I had to track responses to the web server and make additional changes as required.
What do you think is different about your life now than before the program?
My life has significantly improved because I am confident about the future of my career. I am pleased with my ability to contribute to my immediate team and organization. My confidence level has been increasing, and I look forward to interacting with my colleagues and our organization’s customers.
What do you find fulfilling about your current line of work?
I find that computer networking and cloud computing, which are taught in the program, are crucial on a day-to-day basis because the two are intertwined, and I can experience how they evolve. There are many opportunities to learn new techniques and skills.
What do you enjoy about working at your current company? Any specific perks you enjoy?
I appreciate the company’s culture of being respectful to everyone and mindful of circumstances when they arise and being attentive to work-life balance.
Do you have any job search advice for someone considering a career in your field?
I strongly recommend taking CompTIA’s Network+ [certification exam] during the program because many questions are covered during job interviews, as well as on-the-job. I also suggest applying to positions early, engaging with the Career Services team to review one’s cover letter and resume, and taking advantage of mock interview appointments.