Howdy! This will be my first post. *pats me on the back for finally following through with this*
Here I’ll drop whatever is on my mind. From whatever APT is doing something significant in the world, to things I’m asked the most like, “How the hell did you get a Federal contractor role at the tender age of 22 in Cyber?” To attempting to explain to the world why Cyber the coolest topic in our times. To super cool litty bop walkthroughs I finally finish when I am not too busy.

How I did it:

One day when I was in college in my Sophomore year, I sat in class and said to myself “I wonder how I can get some real-world experience in this world.” So, I went back to my apartment and started doing little labs here and there that r/itcareerquestions suggested. Playing with Windows Server, AD, and watching some videos on basic help desk tutorials. This in return, got me to my first interview, at an Oil and Gas company. I was hired on as an IT Service Desk Analyst Intern focused on imaging, encrypting, and deploying assets to eagerly awaiting users.

So, while this wasn’t reeeally Cyber related at all, the seeds of what makes a great analyst great were planted in these three months. Customer service, attention to detail, and commitment. Plus, I was FINALLY getting that *real* work experience and building a track record for myself.

From here I branched to another internship for Jr Systems Administrator Intern at an Insurance company. From here I was invited back to that Oil and Gas company where I could work real service desk tickets (yay!) learning all about GPU updates, and helped with my first real “cyber” investigation.

In between all of this I utilized my go-to resource for mapping out my next moves, LinkedIn. Here I searched up folks in Cyber and messaged from the same playbook: Hi {insert name} I’m currently a Junior at the University of {college} majoring in {major}. I’ve had a few internships on the support side of IT and while I love doing that, my passion is in Information Security. I was just wondering if you give me some advice on how you got to cyber threat intel, what a day in your life is, and any general advice you could give me on making the push to a security role. This way, I politely so leveraged myself as one seeking counsel from someone in a role at a company I may or may not have been interested in. At a minimum, I would receive career-changing advice and a much clearer pathway to see how folks made the move to get in where they stand. What usually happened was me getting an “in” to half of the company’s I worked for, while also obtaining lifelong friends in the IT/Cyber spectrum's.

(Pro Tip: LinkedIn is your friend, asking for advice from people in the same field you dream to be in can be incredibly beneficial for you) A month before my contract was up with the oil and gas company, A very, very, large O&G company messaged me via LinkedIn for a position at their HQ for a SCCM related project.

I was there for 4 months working on deploying assets to multiple rigs around the world’s oceans in a cost-effective amount of time. From here I then worked a short-term contract at a large regional energy company using the skills I got from my first internship on imaging and deploying assets.

After this ended, I landed another internship with a large-scale O&G manufacturer. I was lucky enough to work on their Service Desk and started off working tickets, RSA token resets, but by the time I was leaving I graduated to configuring their SCCM infrastructure to deploy images, made them a template of Security related policy’s. By the grace of God himself right before COVID ticked off I was offered a position at a green energy company for a seat at their SOC as an intern. I did important work that mattered, from phishing emails to monitoring different alerts on potential sus processes running on devices. Most importantly to myself, I got my feet wet in CTI by making a Tweetdeck monitoring different events/tweets in the context of Cyber in the energy sector. And writing security bulletins for the company. Finally, I am where I am today as a Security analyst as a government contractor. 3 1/2 years later, poof.

Key Takeaways:

-What you don’t see are the thousands of failed interviews, and denials from companies I applied to. Always shoot your shot regardless of the job description.

-Continue to invest in yourself, go to conferences, do some labs, do some readings, etc. A degree isn’t enough anymore. If you want to strive in this field and honestly in any field, you will have to do some extra work in the off-hours.

-Things take time. You are closer to your dream today than you were yesterday

- The credentials you carry don’t always matter…. I still have yet to graduate college (but I will this Fall lol), but what matters is your drive and if you can do the job. I have met analysts with masters degrees, art degrees, no degrees, and some with just certifications. YMMW.

So why Cyber?

Is it cool enough to get a tattoo that says “Cyber never sleeps”?

Yeah, I did that.

Think of things this way: gas pipelines, the energy grid, hospital records, websites that we depend on to pay our bills, or watch our shows. What do these things have in common? They all rely on computer networks in some way or the other. Cyber is the one thing that intersects with all industries in this world. In this day and age, we are all so dependent on the internet, and as we grow more and more dependent as the days go by, more and more “bad guys” will continue to attempt to exploit this dependency. What is so fucking cool about cyber is the fact that this is truly a global cat and mouse game. There are sooo (and I can’t stress this enough) many players in this game. From Nation-state groups like Russia’s SVR, (APT 29) to Iran’s (APT 33), to North Korea’s Unit 180 (APT 38). (Also APT = Advanced Persistent Threat, This is a quick name Nation-State Cyber groups are given to track them. These actors have capabilities that smaller groups don’t to do serious damage). Then we have smaller crime groups like FIN11 that use ransomware to target normal honest people to exploit them for cash. Then you have the weird individuals who are considered ‘lone wolf’ and lastly, you have folks like me and researchers around the world defending networks, and analyzing these attacks to continue to grasp an understanding of their TTPs. (Tactics, techniques, and procedures).

Monday’s we are worried about Russia’s SVR team, then Tuesday is all about Iran and so on. Cyber is always evolving and we always learning in this field. The attack that occurred yesterday is already being replaced by new one’s today. The work here is not only really interesting but rewarding as well. Some days you will be analyzing known attacks that are targeting your industry and you have to put on your Intel analyst hat and think of the five W’s. Other days you are attempting to repel attacks from your network.

Also Cyber is so damn wide that there are like 876543 different niche jobs within “Cyber”. You like coding and want to get into hacking? Try pentesting or web application security. Want to get into an exciting field but have 0 interest in coding? Try auditing and policy.

So much to do under the Cyber umbrella!

What is also really nice is that the landscape is changing so dramatically, that sometimes even the experts don’t know everything, so if you don’t know something that’s okay! The security community does rally together (at work and on Twitter) trying to figure out what occurred and why and who did it. This community also has had a big push recently to mentor and train new people and encourage them to take a security pathway. Especially women in this field as well. (We love to see it) So there you have it. Cyber truly doesn’t ever sleep.

22/TX/SOC Analyst/CTI groupie/All things cyber, work, life, while juggling being a full time college student.