From Air Force Intelligence to Security Researcher!

This individual served four years in the United States Air Force, working in various non-technical and semi-technical roles. With an impending transition our of the Air Force and a significant technical skills gap identified, the journey to a cybersecurity career seemed fraught with uncertainties. The discovery of VetSec marked the beginning of a transformative journey.

  1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background before joining VetSec?
    I was enlisted in the United States Air Force for four years, working in multiple non-technical or and semi-technical environments involving research, communications, and intelligence analysis.
  1. How did you first learn about VetSec, and what motivated you to get involved?
    Believe it or not, I do not remember where I learned about VetSec. I was transitioning out of the Air Force and realized that there was a significant technical skills gap between what I was capable of and what I needed to be capable of. I had the skillset of a systems administrator, but I knew virtually nothing I needed for a truly technical security position.
  1. What were some of the biggest challenges or obstacles you faced in transitioning to a cybersecurity career before joining VetSec?

    If you’re going to copy/paste a single quote into the VetSec website, this should probably be it:

    There’s a severe misconception that people attempting to break into the “cybersecurity field” face, which is that it is a singular, isolated career field, perhaps divided between “red team” and “blue team” positions. That plays well into “offensive” and “defensive”-themed training classes and bootcamps, but it’s ultimately untrue, and it took some explanation from a group of accomplished VetSec-ers before that misconception was dispelled.
  2. Can you describe your experience with VetSec’s training and mentorship programs? What specific resources or support did you find most valuable?

    It’s difficult to explain the type of people that frequent VetSec. If you are aspiring to be a cybersecurity professional, VetSec is going to make you feel like a first year student at Hogwarts. You can find technical and career-oriented mentorship from real security professionals working on real, sometimes industry-defining problems. You can freely ask these people: “What do I need to do to get from where I am to where you are?”

    There will be a lot of work for you to do on your own, but their guidance will lead you to that place.

    On that note, the unfortunate truth is that there are rabbit holes that act as obstacles to breaking into the cybersecurity field – books, training classes, degree programs, and bootcamps that teach outdated or inadequate material, and that will not help prepare you for a career or, in many cases, even an interview. Breaking into the cybersecurity often requires having someone who is capable of telling you: “Your time is better spent elsewhere.”  There are plenty of those people here.
  1. How has the VetSec community impacted you personally and professionally?

    Nothing I write here will answer this question adequately. I am thrilled by what I do for a living. Thrilled. I haven’t been “bored” at work for years. If I become bored, I have the resources to further myself into a new security-oriented skillset, building on my existing foundations, and move into a position where I maintain this same sense of excitement. I have never, ever felt so fulfilled. Reaching this point took years of very late, and sometimes very frustrating nights – but it was made possible only by the guidance I received from the VetSec community every step of the way. From “what classes do I take?” to “what independent projects should I work on?” to “how do I prepare for this interview?” to “how should I negotiate this salary?” – I knew that the people guiding me forward were doing so from a place of experience.
  1. Can you share a specific moment or achievement during your time with VetSec that you are particularly proud of?

    I came in asking questions like “What is a calling convention?” to telling a small group of mentors that I landed a six-figure career as a security researcher two years later.
  1. Where are you currently in your cybersecurity career, and how did VetSec contribute to your success?

    I am currently a security researcher frequently working in Windows kernel space. When I joined VetSec, I did not know what a kernel was.
  1. Reflecting on your journey, how do you think your career and personal growth would have been different without VetSec? What are your future aspirations in the field of cybersecurity?

    If I had not found VetSec I would probably be employed by Denny’s.

    I dare you include this.
  1. What advice would you give to other veterans considering a career in cybersecurity and thinking about joining VetSec?

    Click the button. Join the Slack channel. Talk to the community. There are no membership fees. You do not have to purchase anything. I have watched hundreds of people enter VetSec, ask questions, and become employed at major companies in the span of just a few years. Literally hundreds. By the time you’re reading this, maybe it’s thousands. Be one of them. Be one of us. Join our story. Click the button. You have literally nothing to lose. 
  1. Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience with VetSec or a message to the community?

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