by Erica Yee
Growing up, Ally Hoffman would hold the flashlight for her dad as he installed the latest motherboard or video card into the computer they were building together. He would explain the various technical details, and they would play video games to test out the newly built machines. That interest in technology from a young age followed Hoffman through her undergraduate years. While completing her BS in Business Administration at Boston University, she took every information systems class she could.
When she decided to further her education, she found what she was looking for with Northeastern University’s Master of Science in Information Assurance (MSIA) program, recently renamed the Master of Science in Cybersecurity. Hoffman wanted a well-regarded graduate program that offered the flexibility to take courses both online and in-person while allowing her to both study and work full-time.
“In my search, the MSIA program at Northeastern was the only school that met my criteria — and the fact that it was in Boston, where I live, made it an easy decision,” said Hoffman, who graduated from the program in 2017. The Department of Homeland Security Center of Academic Excellence designation was also influential in her choice.
The MSIA program provided Hoffman with challenging opportunities to grow her knowledge and skills. When she took Computer System Security with Professor Jose Sierra, she had to step out of her comfort zone with a course different from her area of expertise. She was initially hesitant because she felt she had a less technical background than her peers, but after the first few weeks, the class became her favorite in the entire program.
“The labs each week pushed me to truly test the limits of my technical capabilities and learn the depths of security risks,” she said. “And Jose’s clear command and love for the topics made it a wonderful course.”
Hoffman currently works in the IT Risk Advisory Practice at Ernst & Young. As a Senior Consultant, her experiences in the MSIA program have allowed her to take on a variety of cyber specialist projects. She has performed large scale penetration testing engagements, researched risks in the VBA script of spreadsheets, and performed hundreds of security audits. Additionally, she has also been invited to speak on cyber topics at a number of conferences and universities.
“[Cybersecurity] is a vast subject that the most powerful people in the world have their eyes on, and the opportunities for influence in this field are limitless,” she said.
Hoffman, who is also a Certified Information Systems Auditor and Associate of ISC(2) – Certified Information Systems Security Professional, hopes to continue pursuing opportunities where she can bridge the technical and contextual aspects of security.
“I had an incredible experience in the MSIA program. I met some of the most brilliant minded colleagues and challenged myself in a way I didn’t know was possible,” she said. “I’m forever grateful to the MSIA program for getting me a step closer to expertise in the field of cybersecurity.”