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2019 Gudelsky Scholar shares his secret for pushing limits and breaking boundaries

Everything is connected. People, homes, cars, planes, banks, cities – you name it. In today’s increasingly digital era, we leave a heavy footprint, one that is equally convenient and susceptible to exploitation.

Jacob Karnes, 2019 Gudelsky Scholar

Organizations need experts who know how to protect and secure data, individuals who understand that there is no graduating from the field, no single point at which you can say, I know all that I need to know. Technology is constantly changing, requiring professionals to adopt a lifelong learning approach.

Capitol Technology University provides students with hands-on learning opportunities, both inside and outside of the classroom, preparing them to join one of today’s fastest-growing, in-demand career fields: the cyber field.

Jacob Karnes, a senior cyber security major and the co-founder and president of Capitol’s Signal-9 Competitive Team, understands exactly what he’s getting into. “There is an exponential increase in how technology changes, and it will continue to grow,” he says. “This parallels with how much cyber experts increasingly need to know.”

Jacob is a problem solver by nature, who values both traditional and self-guided learning. “You can only learn so much through traditional learning,” he explains. “The most important skill is to know how to learn effectively outside of class. Teachers teach you what they want you to know based on current trends. You need to be able to use that knowledge and branch out. Once you overcome that gap, you can learn anything.”

One of Jacob’s first self-assigned challenges to tackle when he arrived at Capitol was to create an organized team for cyber competitions, one that would be empowered to continue long after he graduates. Although Capitol has a long tradition of competitive teams, most disband after the student leader graduates.

Fast forward two years, and it’s clear that Jacob’s vision is coming to fruition. Signal-9 is growing into a learning hub that uses competition as a motivator to push students beyond what they originally perceived as their limit. Jacob notes, “In our world, competition is the norm. When you are in the process of securing a job, for instance, you are competing against other candidates.”

Jacob’s inspiration for creating an organized competitive team from the ground up? Sheer determination to find a solution for positive change, an attitude that he credits, in part, to his mentors. Upon seeing that there was not a sustained competitive spirit at Capitol, Jacob resolved to “find a way or make one” in classic Capitol style. “In life, when faced with a challenge, you have the option to take action,” he notes. “If you see a gap, you have several choices: take action and lead the resolution yourself, assign the project to someone you trust, or wait. If you do not take action, you may find no one else will either.”

At the helm of Signal-9, Jacob seeks to simulate a real-world experience in a low-risk environment, where students – including both cyber majors and anyone else who is interested – are able to learn through trial, error, and exploration. Outside of the classroom, Jacob also lends his skills to Capitol’s Security Operations Center as head administrator and Cyber Battle Lab, pushing for each to better enable exchange and learning across STEM disciplines.

Jacob’s approach to experiential learning has certainly proven effective. Recently, during the spring commencement ceremony, he was named the 2019 Gudelsky Scholar, Capitol’s most prestigious academic honor for undergraduate students. He is a Splunk Certified User and Adobe Certified Associate in Web Communications. Jacob is also industry certified in CompTIA Security+, a certification that Capitol prepares its students for by as early as the start of their sophomore year.

Jacob Karnes, commencement

With his down-to-earth personality, Jacob offers spot-on advice for students who seek to pursue a career in cyber and information security. “Don’t pretend to know something that you really don’t know,” he cautions. “Even if you have a general idea, do not stretch and make connections that are not really there. Take time to learn things the right way. Have confidence that even if you don’t know something, you can learn it. All it takes is your time and motivation.”

Nationwide, the demand for cyber security talent continues to grow. In fact, it has grown to the point that it exceeds the number of skilled professionals ready to meet the challenge, the results of which prove costly for individuals and organizations plagued daily with cyber security threats. Here in our domain of learning, near the heart of the nation’s capital, we are helping to do our part and address the need one student at a time.

Interested in a career in cyber security? Learn more about Capitol’s bachelor’s degree programs in cyber and information security. For more information or to apply, contact