TSTC cybersecurity student-veteran on track toward a new career

Mayra Diaz

By Amanda Sotelo, TSTC Staff

After four years in the Navy, Mayra Diaz set out to find a new career she could love and new goals she could achieve; this led her to Texas State Technical College.

The 27-year-old is now expected to graduate from TSTC’s cybersecurity program in Spring 2020 and Diaz couldn’t be any happier with her decision to pursue this path.

“After the Navy I returned home and tried everything from customer service to the medical field, and I wasn’t enjoying any of it,” said Diaz. “I was having trouble leaving my life as an electrician in the Navy behind, but I knew I needed to move forward, especially because of my back injury.”

Knowing how to cable and create electrical plans, she knew she needed to find a career similar to her last.

That’s when college program and career research, and memories of the networking crew on the ship she lived in while stationed in Virginia, inspired her to enroll in Computer Networking and Security Technology, now cybersecurity at TSTC.

“Cybersecurity and network cabling is pretty similar to what I did as an electrician,” she said. “And now I have added bonus skills, such as programming and troubleshooting networks.”

And as president of the Cyber Squad, the program’s student-run club, and a National Cyber League competitor, she has had the opportunity to learn not only from her instructors, but other TSTC students.

The National Cyber League is a non-profit organization that provides ongoing virtual training ground for participants to develop, practice and validate their cybersecurity knowledge and skills using next-generation, high-fidelity simulation environments.

“Competing with National Cyber League has opened my eyes to the industry and has allowed me to expand on the skills I’ve received while in the program,” said Diaz. “We all get to learn from each other and apply what we’ve learned.”

Diaz added that as a competitor there are also teachable moments, because she not only competes, but she also helps younger cybersecurity students find their way in the competition arena.

She has also had the opportunity to present to middle and high school girls using cyber lab projects to engage them, give them a look into cybersecurity and give them a hands-on experience.   

“Class cohorts come and go, so it’s important that we take time to teach our first-semester students the way because when we graduate and leave, we need them to continue the legacy,” said Diaz. “Plus, when we teach, we also learn.”

Diaz said she is more than confident to enter the workforce and credits her instructors’ knowledge and willingness to share experiences and supplemental resources, the hands-on training she has received while in the program and the opportunities she has gained.

Upon graduating, Diaz plans on moving to Corpus Christi to begin her career and to reunite with her husband. The mother of one has been living in the Rio Grande Valley for the past two years with her daughter, while she finished the program.

“It has been really difficult living apart and only seeing each other on the weekends,” said Diaz. “But I can see the prize and it’s been worth it. I can’t wait to begin my new career.”

There are two areas that Diaz said she hopes to work in when she graduates: penetration and web application testing or networking.

“It’s really hard deciding what I want to do, but it’s great knowing I have options,” she said. “But I do hope whatever it is I do I am successful and able to grow within the industry because the love I had for being an electrician is the same love I’m finding in cybersecurity.”

Cybersecurity is also offered at TSTC’s Fort Bend County, Marshall, North Texas, Waco and East Williamson County campuses.

TSTC’s Cybersecurity program at the Harlingen campus is recognized as a National Center of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency.

For more information, visithttps://tstc.edu/programs/Cybersecurity.