2016 Marci McCarthy Cybersecurity Certification Scholarship Recipient
My interest in information security/cybersecurity came about from a career change. I originally worked in healthcare, performing behind-the-scenes work in their systems. Working in that area led to my obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in health systems management; and from there I moved on to pursue a Master’s degree. However, as the years went by, I realized that work in healthcare systems didn’t seem to have any real longevity for me. I determined I was more interested in the technical side of the job—in the cybersecurity aspect—than actual healthcare management. That is when I decided to seek out a career change and focus on information security work.
I first learned about ICMCP by searching for organizations I could connect with that would better integrate me into cybersecurity. In a former position, part of my job and studies involved searching for conferences I could attend that would provide me with more information and skills in information security. For example, I am a part of Women in Cybersecurity (WIC), Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC), and was once a part of The National Cyber Analyst Challenge (NCAC) held by Leidos. However, the relationships that I made while attending the ICMCP conferences were what initially led me to become more involved with the organization. Several fellow classmates at the school I attended at the time had applied for scholarships with the ICMCP or had joined the organization. That feeling of community, of it being about a group of coworkers and new connections working together rather than just me pursuing my own interests, was what drew me to join the organization.
I found out about the Marci McCarthy Cybersecurity Certification Scholarship through an ICMCP conference. I actually decided to apply for it not specifically to fund school tuition, but to obtain certifications that would increase my skillset for my career. For example, I used a portion of the funds to attend classes and receive an FTK certification, which gave me a new set of tools to use in my current position with the government.
However, the true value of the Marci McCarthy Cybersecurity Certification Scholarship is not in the money. I do believe that it is important for security programs and organizations to provide scholarship opportunities in order to fund the studies of future industry executives. However, what set this scholarship apart from all others was the time Marci provided to me. This scholarship did not just give me money for schooling or for certifications—it gave me an opportunity to talk with Marci and work with her, and she truly helped me reposition myself for entering into the cybersecurity field.
In many other careers, you don’t really have to sell yourself to get the job—they can read your resume and speak with you and generally gain a good understanding of whether or not you are a fit for a position. But on the IT and cybersecurity side of things, you really have to make yourself into your own “brand” that sets you apart as someone especially valuable for the job. I did not understand that when I first came into this field—I thought a solid resume would immediately make me a great candidate. Marci helped me realize that I truly have to get my name out there, to network myself, to build up a repertoire of skills and evidence of my work. With her help, I truly found myself succeeding in locking in a position in this industry. That’s not the kind of mentoring that you receive with many other scholarship opportunities. That’s not the kind of information you can just grant to me with a check. The Marci McCarthy Cybersecurity Certification Scholarship is extremely valuable for any woman or minority hoping to advance their studies and career work in information security—a unique scholarship, unlike any other.