By Amanda Sotelo, TSTC Staff
Cyber Security students from Texas State Technical College spent their weekend touring cybersecurity facilities in San Antonio and getting an in-depth look into what skills employers look for and the types of career opportunities that are available.
One of the facilities toured by the group was Accenture Federal Services, a federal cyber center that serves clients at defense, intelligence, public safety, civilian and military health organizations.
“This trip served as an opportunity to expose our students to the opportunities waiting for them,” said TSTC Cyber Security lead instructor Cesar Ibarra. “It’s an eye-opener for many to see what they are learning in the classroom applied in the industry.”
At Accenture, the students received a personalized tour by two TSTC Cyber Security alumni: Will Ledesma, principal cyber defense analyst and associate security manager, and Will Cura, cybersecurity analyst, both from the Rio Grande Valley.
In addition to a tour that not many get, the students also had the chance to experience a cyberthreat tabletop exercise led by the alumni.
“Participating in the tabletop exercise was a great experience,” said TSTC Cyber Security student and Cyber Squad Club president Mayra Diaz. “To get to apply what we’re learning into the exercise in front of alumni and industry professionals proves to us that we are moving in the right direction.”
Diaz said this San Antonio trip has been full of “aha moments” that are motivating her and encouraging her to push forward.
“I’m officially excited for my future,” she said. “I feel like this experience is preparing us for the profession and giving us the chance to network with industry professionals.”
Both alumni agree that being given the opportunity to mentor students from the program they graduated from and being able to share their experience and advice brings things full circle.
“My computer career began nearly two decades ago, and it wasn’t until TSTC that my career really took off,” said Ledesma, a 2009 Cyber Security graduate. “Now it feels great knowing that I can help these students and be a little part of their success as well. Because without TSTC and the mentors I have in my life, there is no way I’d be here today.”
As for Cura, who graduated from TSTC’s Cyber Security program in 2016, this moment took him back to a time when he counted a lot on his mentors and their advice.
“It wasn’t too long ago that I was in their shoes, and I understand the commitment and dedication it takes to be successful in this industry,” said Cura. “So I’m hoping I can be a mentor that gives them hope and encouragement toward their future careers in cybersecurity and information technology, just as many of my mentors have for me.”
Cura, who visits his family often in La Feria, has previously returned to the TSTC campus to speak with Cyber Security students and offer advice.
Ledesma and Cura shared a piece of advice with the students that helped them years ago. “Find a niche in the industry and make that your focus. Concentrate on becoming an expert in that, and your career will go far,” they both said.
Ibarra said he is proud of his students and his team for making this Accenture tour and San Antonio trip possible.
“This trip has been so rewarding,” said Ibarra. “From seeing some of our former students find success, to seeing our current students engaged and excited about the field and their futures, this trip is invaluable. It puts a big smile on my face.”
To make it all possible, Diaz and the TSTC Cyber Squad Club spent the year hosting fundraisers to raise enough money for this experience.
“We’ve been fundraising for two semesters now because we really wanted to do something like this,” said Diaz. “It’s definitely been a group effort, and we’re enjoying every moment of it and letting it all soak in.”
The group also toured the Toyota plant, San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Southwest Texas Fusion Center, Geekdom, Scaleworks, and Port San Antonio.
Cybersecurity Ventures, the world’s leading researcher for the global cyber economy and a trusted source for cybersecurity facts, figures and statistics, said in a recent report that they predict there will be at least 3.5 million cybersecurity job openings by 2021.
TSTC’s Cyber Security program in Harlingen is recognized as a National Center of Excellence by the Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency.
Cyber Security is also offered at TSTC’s Fort Bend County, Marshall, North Texas and Waco campuses. Visit tstc.edu/programs/CyberSecurity for more information.
The deadline to register for Fall 2019 is August 23. The first day of classes is August 26.