This week we sat down (remotely) with current Cyber Defense Analyst Bootcamp student Taylor Patterson.
Taylor works full-time as a Special Education Coordinator and holds a master's degree in Deaf Education. On top of working full-time, Taylor is a father and husband and has passed his Security+ exam during the bootcamp. We wanted to see how he does it all!
What is your background? What are you currently doing?
I have my first degree in literature. It is an English degree with an emphasis in Creative Writing. I worked in that industry for a little bit, and then I didn’t really like it, so I went back to school.
I had already been involved in the deaf community by learning sign language at three years old and communicating with my deaf cousin. My next undergrad was in special education and then I earned a master's degree that focused on deaf education. I worked for six years as a deaf educator for a local high school. Now, I am the Special Education Coordinator. I handle all of the federal and state level paperwork and make sure we’re not breaking any laws or regulations basically. It’s fun, but not as fun as cybersecurity.
What made you interested in Cybersecurity?
Learning about that and thinking about how to secure applications within that environment got me thinking about cybersecurity. It didn’t hurt either that one of my very close friends works in cyber, and we were discussing ideas and started talking more and more about cybersecurity. I knew it was different from everything I’d done, and that intrigued me. You know, there is something about building things, like an app or a tool, that was cool. But, now, we’ve got threat hunting, good guys and bad guys—it’s completely different. From day one, I was in love.
How did you find out about Level Effect?
Through my friend who also took the Cyber Defense Analyst Bootcamp.
How are you liking it so far?
It is bittersweet. I am excited to get through it so I can continue to grow. But, man I’ve met some super close friends already. I’ve met some people I know I am going to be connected with for the rest of my life. It’s been an excellent, excellent experience. Difficult at times—it makes you want to pull your hair out because you can’t figure something out, but it’s also very fun, so it’s been wonderful. I don’t have any experience with any other bootcamps—this is the only one I’ve ever been to, but I can’t imagine it getting much better than this.
Can you talk about your experience in a bootcamp versus traditional degree/diploma-style learning?
Sure, so I have three degrees. My master's degree in education was completed in one year. So, I would equate the bootcamp to that, but on overload.
You take a one-year program, and you smash that into 13 weeks. There is a lot of not sleeping and researching on your own, which I like that kind of stuff. There is hands-off and hands-on learning, and there is as much support as you want to take from it. As far as traditional learning versus a bootcamp style, a bootcamp is definitely more intensive, and I like it.
Since you’ve done degree programs and a bootcamp and have a unique view of education, what would you say to a student who was considering taking their first undergraduate degree, or attending a bootcamp?
If you want to go to college for the lifestyle and well-rounded education, sure. If you go to college for cyber you are going to get exposed to other topics like religious studies, history, and so on that might make you more well-rounded.
But as far as cyber goes, I would say a bootcamp is more focused on the skills you need to get out and get into the industry faster. I have friends who have done both, so I think both are possible to work in the industry—it’s just about the experience the individual wants.
What advice would you give to people who are evaluating which bootcamp to take?
For me, it was all about what worked for my family first. It had to work within the confines of my family and not uproot everything to make this happen. The other thing that helped me choose was the background of the instructors, along with their reputation in the community. The price was also attractive. But, most importantly, I wanted to get in somewhere and know when I walked out, I'd have real-world experience and would be able to walk into an interview and showcase the skills I have. I feel like Level Effect totally does that.
What are your goals in cybersecurity?
I love the infrastructure; I am still a programmer in my heart. I love developing and seeing the product there. If I had an end goal, I would want to experience working for a FANG (Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google) company for at least a year.
I'd like to work as a security engineer, or an applications security engineer, or in DevOps, or as a cloud engineer. I want to work somewhere big just so I can see if it’s as glorious as it sounds.
What advice would you give to students who are just starting?
Time management. I am not saying that you have to tell everyone to go away or anything like that, but when friends ask to hang out, you’re going to have to say no.
You’re not going to know everything, but don’t just shrug it off. Seek out more research or support on those topics. Don’t just let things slide.
There is a lot you have to do outside of class. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stayed up til 2 or 3am just going through things. Level Effect says 20hours a week—I think that is minimum to understand and grasp the large amount of information.
Explore. Break stuff. The instructors, I think they enjoy when you break things. Whenever I come into class like ‘hey I broke this’, they are like ‘yeah, you probably shouldn’t have done that, but good on you for trying.’
Do you have anything else you want to share with our community and team?
There has been so much support, even on weekends or at night, anytime we have questions, I get quick replies, and that is so amazing. We’ve been provided with an excellent opportunity and an excellent education; you just need to have the initiative to do it.
To students I would also say, find a buddy you can go through it with. Someone to learn with, to be competitive with or be happy with your wins. I am so lucky to have a good buddy I met at the bootcamp. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve stayed in a breakout room late to explore a topic or learn together.
The more I learn about this industry, the more I realize it’s definitely a people-person-driven job. You’re going to have to work together, collaborate and implement procedures organization-wide. You are not just securing a system for other computers; you are securing a system for users. So, I am always thinking about the people first, making sure they are protected, and they are having the best and safest experience they can throughout that environment.
If you have any more questions for Taylor, you can connect with him on LinkedIn.