By Barnaby Frumess, September 2015
I am the prototypical student for this program. With no hyperbole, I can state that, on the first day of my first course, I was an absolute novice. My experience with computers was relegated to work environments: I had updated customer profiles at a car dealership; I had prepared spreadsheets for the local government entity; I had done research at my college institution. I was an “end-user” – a four-letter word in the IT community! I was an imbiber of applications, before the buzzword “Apps” took off thanks to the prevalence of smart phones.
I can honestly say that I was surprised to be accepted into the program without a computer science background. But herein lies the very crux of why Utica College is exceptional. The confidence is present, among the professorship and administration alike, that you will be taught what you need to know. This may differ from many, or even all, other institutions providing distance-learning in that those who teach come from industry and indeed still remain working in industry.
Mentors and Experts
This last is the single most important piece of the technological puzzle. Finding a mentor is paramount to one’s success in any endeavor but none so much as in the field of computers. Mine, in fact, clarified for me a concept that I have only begun to grasp: In the I.T. realm, differences in knowledge are magnified exponentially. In other words, if someone knows more than others in a particular subject she becomes the expert in that subject. At Utica, all of the professors are both mentors and experts.
Let it serve as both a comfort and an admonishment that, in this discipline of computers and computing, there is only a finite amount of base information one need learn to get a secure foothold. Granted, when it comes to computer programming, for example, there is no vertical limit, but even there one need only take classes in databases, algorithms, and a programming language to get a foothold. The point here is that there is a baseline that one must achieve in order to, at the very least, feel as if their feet are on solid ground. However, that said, the learning curve is quite steep.
So what do you really need to know to be a cybersecurity ninja?
There are four groups of knowledge that will require your steadfast attention: Networking; Coding; Databases; Operating Systems. Mastery in each of these branches of computing is not required, and often we find that techies become pigeon-holed of their own volition: A coder might know nothing about networking; a database engineer might not be familiar with Mac OSX; a Windows systems engineer may have no knowledge of a Linux network. In cybersecurity, however, we must have at least some exposure, however minimal, to each, and so the beginning of the program can seem daunting, overwhelming, or just plain hard.
Use your nervousness to your advantage
I want to close by saying that I was as nervous as any of my classmates when I started the program, and that was a good thing. My attention was extremely tight and my focus was honed. Taking one course every eight weeks was timed perfectly as my mind was able to absorb the information at an even rate. Next time, get ready for a blog about Linux!
About the Author
Barnaby Frumess is a professor at SUNY Orange in the Computer Sciences division. After two decades of playing rock & roll guitar, cooking in restaurants, and living in a van down by the river, he decided to change careers.
Professor Frumess, as he likes to be known, has now finished all coursework in the Utica College MS Cybersecurity program and is working on his capstone project. With the guidance and mentorship of the Utica faculty, he was able to maneuver the hurdles of a new discipline and successfully change careers.
With the opportunity to help new students, new Utica College family members, Professor Frumess dedicates this blog experience to those who take the plunge into new waters and to those who make that plunge possible.