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Q&A Cybersecurity Alumni: Jessica Jimenez

Jessica Jimenez, a 2013 graduate of Capitol Technology University's Master of Science in Information Assurance (now called Cybersecurity), spoke with Capitol Tech about her experience in this program. Jessica currently works as an Adjunct Professor at Capitol Tech, is a Senior Manager in Amazon's Threat Detection and Monitoring Department, and is an Information Security Instructor at the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security.

Question: How did you find out about and decide to attend Capitol Tech?

Answer: A colleague of mine at a previous company was attending Capitol College to earn their M.S. in Information Assurance and highly recommended the program.

Q: Did you have a favorite aspect of your program at Capitol Tech?

A: I loved that the instructors at Capitol Tech currently work in the field in which they are teaching. Course content is current with the technology in use and topics covered were directly relevant to challenges we are facing in the industry.

Q: How did your cybersecurity program prepare you for your current job?

A: Capitol Tech gave me both broad exposure to cybersecurity issues across the domain and deep dives into topics particularly applicable to my career: incident response, malware analysis, network attack & defense. It gave me the technical chops to understand and respond to tactical issues while also providing the foundation for a more strategic perspective that is increasingly important as I’ve moved from an individual contributor role to a leadership role.

Q: During your job search process, do you think the skills you learned from Capitol Tech helped you quickly find a job? If so, what skills do you think made you stand out the most.

A: Oh, 100%. I changed careers mid-degree program. The foundational skills and technical knowledge absolutely prepared me to not just to make it through the interviews for an incident handler role, but the hands-on lab work at Capitol Tech allowed me to hit the ground running and immediately begin providing value to the team. The hands-on component at Capitol Tech really sets the program apart from other programs in my mind. Students learn not just theory, but application as well.

Q: What advice would you give to students who hope to major in cybersecurity or graduates who hope to have a career in cybersecurity?

A: Stay curious. Never stop learning. This field is highly ambiguous; threats are always evolving. Being able to demonstrate that you have a curious mindset that can adapt is critically important.

Never underestimate the importance of relationships. Find a mentor. Leverage social media platforms, local meetups, alumni groups, and any other information security-focused groups to become a member of.

Apply for the job! Chances are good that the listed requirements aren’t really hard requirements.

Q: Would you like to add anything else?

A: Cybersecurity is a field where women and minorities are significantly under-represented. Women comprise only 20% of the cybersecurity workforce in 2019. Only 13% of Fortune 500 CISOs identify as female. While this is an improvement from 11% in 2013, we have a long way to go. Minorities overall are also similarly underrepresented. (ISC)2’s 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study reports that only 26% of cybersecurity workers self-identify as a minority.

At the same time, we are facing critical shortages of cybersecurity staff. (ISC)2’s 2019 Cybersecurity Workforce Study estimated 4.07 million unfilled cybersecurity positions globally.

It is more important than ever to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to excel in this field. My hope, best said by Brenda Darden Wilkerson, is that we will soon realize a future where technology fields, including cybersecurity, are truly representative of the people we are working to protect.

“I want our daughters to say, ‘I heard back in your day there was this problem that there weren’t enough women in tech. What was that like?’”
-Brenda Darden Wilkerson
President & CEO of AnitaB.org