Are you a technical thinker and natural problem solver who enjoys thinking outside of the box? If you shouted an internal ‘yes!’ then cybersecurity might be the path for you. It is for Kari Fox – who has done everything from troubleshooting to fighting viruses (the technical kind, of course).
Long before she was a cybersecurity student at Brightpoint Community College, Kari was a young girl interested in the inner workings of the techy world around her. After years of removing viruses from her parents’ computers and spending her days tinkering with keyboards and hard drives, she became part of a company that allowed her to experiment with different IT options and expand her hobby into a job. After working at companies like Best Buy on the Geek Squad and Max Potential, Kari finally landed a job at VDOT where she currently does IT security.
Although she’s on the fast track to her dream career, continuing her education didn’t always feel like a possibility. Like many students, the cost of college was a huge obstacle — that is, until she discovered G3.
“Honestly, without the G3 program, I wouldn’t be back in school,” said Kari. “We have a lot of expenses and a lot of things we have to take care of. We just didn’t have the money set aside for me to be able to go back to school at the time.”
The G3 program — one of the largest statewide initiatives Virginia’s Community Colleges has undertaken in its history— made Kari’s future goals not only achievable but affordable.
“When I found out that I was eligible for the G3 program I was in total shock and extremely excited,” said Kari. “I went to my husband and said, look at this, we can do this now. I can actually go to school.”
Whether you’re interested in web development, computer systems or being a support specialist, G3 has something for everyone. Through the program, you can advance your skills and reboot your career with a certification in digital and information resources design, computer systems networking and telecommunications. Or, like Kari, cybersecurity.
“I’m in a programming class right now where I’ve already used some of the tips and tricks that I learned in the field. It can’t get more specific than that.”
Specific is right. The Information Technology industry molds and shapes the transmission of information that makes our world run, leading to the creation of new businesses and more jobs. That’s why the G3 program makes it a priority to ensure that students are taught relevant, applicable skills that are transferable in the real world.
In class Kari learns about different elements of cybersecurity, and while not all of it is pleasant, it is essential. “I’ve learned about some pretty scary viruses that can attack your computer and social engineer you into giving them your password or something they aren’t supposed to have,” said Kari. “It’s just been really surprising to learn the number of viruses that exist and how we as cybersecurity professionals can combat them to help our customers.”
Kari knows that G3 is for anyone looking to expand their career opportunities and create new pathways for their skills. That’s why she makes it a point to share her transformative experience whenever she can.
“My coworker asked me about the G3 program and after sharing my own story, he was inspired to go look up the information –now he’s thinking about signing up! He was extremely excited to find out that there was a program out there specifically for cybersecurity that may honestly cost him nothing.”
While she’s learning countless skills at her current job, Kari looks forward to all the ways G3 will help take her career further. Eventually, she hopes to work for one of the big three tech companies: Microsoft, Google or Apple on an operating system.
When it comes to Kari’s career prospects – the possibilities are endless. In her current program, practically all of Kari’s classes coincide with an industry-standard certification which will allow her to go directly into the field and know what she’s doing in a real, practical way. This route allows students to be more flexible while taking the skills they learned through community college and turning them into translatable skills.
Kari’s word of advice for future students interested in getting into the cybersecurity world is to keep pushing. “If you don’t keep pushing yourself, you’re never going to get where you want to go. I’ve got a lot of crazy things happening in life, but as long as I keep pushing myself, I’m going to be able to get to that next step.”
If you’d like to see if you’re eligible for G3 tuition assistance, contact your local community college to get started.