A TRANSFORMATIONAL JOURNEY INTO A CYBER CAREER

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POSTED ON 20-October-23

We had the privilege of hearing from Mai Ann Sanchez from Castlepoint Systems, who embarked on a remarkable career transition into the dynamic world of cyber security. Coming from a background in Administration and Office Management, Mai Ann shares her journey of transformation, highlighting the driving forces that led her to choose cyber security as her new path. She discusses the valuable resources that guided her shift, her experiences with upskilling, and the importance of soft skills in this field. This interview provides insights into the personal attributes required for success in cyber security and offers advice to those considering a similar career shift. Stay tuned as we delve deeper into Mai Ann's internship experience and the profound impact it had on her career aspirations.

What was your career/industry prior to transitioning to cyber?

Administration/Office Management

What inspired you to make the change?

I wanted to change to cyber security because cyberattacks and data breaches are getting worse every day, not only in Australia but around the world. I realised how important it is to protect the data of people, businesses and organisations from these threats. I felt inspired to contribute and use my skills in this industry in the hope of making the digital world safer for everyone. Also, the constant challenges and learning opportunities in cyber security has motivated me and made me want to be part of this dynamic field.

Were there any resources you found useful when considering the career shift?

I was fortunate enough to join the Canberra Cyber Hub Closing the Cyber Skills Gap – Work-Integrated-Learning pilot (WIL pilot) as an intern. The WIL pilot included a 4 week bootcamp, CompTIA Security + industry certification and four stackable micro-credentials as well as workplace projects.  All the resources provided during the bootcamp and micro credentials such as CompTIA, labs, security platforms and videos were extremely useful in assisting me to upskill in cyber security.

How did you make the change? Were you able to shift industry with your existing skills or did you upskill through an education provider? If so, which provider?

I came back from maternity leave and my CEO and Operations Manager encouraged me to join the Work Integrated Learning pilot. At first, I was hesitant to do it as I don’t have any prior knowledge in this field, but the Canberra Cyber Hub and my bosses reassured me that I don’t need to have all the answers and that my soft skills gained from previous roles were an advantage. I joined the pilot and loved every bit of it. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. 

If you had to undertake additional study, how did you manage your time and life responsibilities to achieve your goal?

Working full time and studying at the same time is very challenging plus having 2 kids, you have to juggle your time, work and study but my husband is very supportive as well as my CEO and colleagues. If you have people supporting you all the way even if you think is impossible, it will be possible. I never thought I would be able to finish the 4-week bootcamp from 5pm-9pm almost every day and I did.

What skills and personal attributes do you think someone needs to transition into a career in cybersecurity?

I think it is very important to develop soft skills since you need to communicate to people most of the time and build strong relationships - especially if you need to work with clients. Also, cyber security is a continuous learning, so I would say having a curious mind and motivation to learn is vital in this field.

Do you have any advice for people considering a career in cybersecurity?

Know your purpose. As long as you have the passion and commitment, everything else follows.

Can you reflect on your overall experience during the internship? What were your initial expectations, and how did they compare to the actual experience?

Overall, it was amazing. At first, I thought I was going to struggle as I don’t have any prior knowledge in this field, but the program itself is designed to cater to students like me. Hands-on and face to face learning suited me best. Interacting with teachers and classmates helped boost my confidence and expand my learning through brainstorming, researching and presentations.

What accomplishments or achievements during the internship are you most proud of?

I used the confidence I gained during the program to conduct a Security Awareness Training for all staff in my organisation based on what I’d learned (and am still learning).

How has this internship influenced your career goals or plans for the future?

Through this internship and hands-on experience, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the critical role of cyber security not only for organisations, but for every individual. It is very important to know how to identify threats and what are the ways to mitigate them. That’s what is motivating me to pursue a career in this field.