Cybersecurity Career Pathways of MSCY Alumni

December 14, 2018

Many graduate students in the CCIS MS in Cybersecurity program have been drawn to the field after working in other high-tech and business careers like IT or management consulting. To address their questions about job opportunities, knowledge and skills demanded, and diversity, the Master’s in Cybersecurity Alumni Roundtable on October 26th featured four alumni – Yoanna Rangelova, Ally Hoffman, Guhan K, and Rishabh Jain – sharing their insights in a candid and wide-ranging discussion.

Hosted by Dr. Jose Sierra with organizational support from a current Master’s in Cybersecurity student, the panel provided a forum for speakers to reflect on their personal experiences and give the audience insider information on specific issues that included career motivations, interview preparation, salary negotiation, certifications, and challenges for international students.

Rangelova, who started her career as a database developer overseas, applied to Fidelity Investments for co-op while a CCIS graduate student. She initially focused on database entry and cloud software. When asked how she transitioned into a full-time IT audit analyst position at Fidelity, she emphasized the value in asking questions and understanding the magnitude of the work. “Even auditing allows you to touch every single point,” Rangelova explained. “People will listen to you because you offer a different perspective.” She acknowledged that it is more difficult for international women to rise in the field of cybersecurity, but encouraged overcoming that difficulty because other women gain from seeing female achievements in the underrepresented field.

Hoffman’s path to CCIS started differently: she studied business at Boston University, began working in consulting, advanced to tech advisor, then IT advisor, and finally senior IT risk advisor at Ernst & Young. When starting out in the Master’s program at Northeastern, she felt like an outsider due to her business background. She quickly discovered that her weakness was actually her advantage. Hoffman explained that “what I think is so helpful is that there aren’t a lot of people out there in the world that can speak to both sides of it – who can see what a financial impact of a cybersecurity decision would be.”

In the panel discussion, some of the intelligence that surfaced was specific and actionable. Jain, who began as a Java developer in India and who currently serves as a security consultant at Synopsys, vividly recalled the interview process during his co-op search. He advised the audience of graduate students to “reach out and ask what they do” when exploring potential co-ops. He also reminded co-op and job seekers not to burn out the night before an interview by trying to learn every one of the qualifications. “Employers don’t expect you to know everything,” Jain said, and he added that it’s okay to admit not being skilled in a certain software or tool.

Guhan also described his co-op experience and its value to his career. After completing seven rounds of interviews, he landed his first co-op at Fidelity Investments. Before CCIS, he completed his undergraduate education in India and worked as a big data developer, and he began his Fidelity job with no experience in cloud security. He faced the challenge with a personal pep talk, telling himself to “be in a position to adapt to new technologies and really know the fundamentals.”

Like the other panelists, Guhan chose cybersecurity because “it’s rewarding,” with growing demand for security specialists and many job openings, Guhan saw the stability of the field. He emphasized that working in cybersecurity is decidedly not a position of comfort or stagnancy. As he, Rangelova, Hoffman, and Jain conveyed, in cybersecurity there are constant challenges, with new ones arising every day, making it an engaging, satisfying field.

As the field of cybersecurity grows in demand, expect the Master’s program at Northeastern to follow suit, with more events and a much more independent program. Attendees came seeking solace for their worries about how to find a career post-graduation and left with sage advice from successful professionals who could relate to their specific experiences.

To learn more about the Cybersecurity Master’s Program, more information is available here.