Student Spotlight – Keeping Utility Systems Cyber Secure

A conversation with recent graduate Kenneth Brooks

Kenneth Brooks, a recent graduate of the online Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Cyber Policy and Risk Analysis, talks about his decision to earn his degree online at Utica College and how it has benefited his career.

Kenneth, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Before I graduated with my master’s, I worked as a software engineer for Lord & Company, which is a system integrator that deals with the water and waste water industry. We worked with a lot of PLCs [programmable logic controllers] and SCADA [supervisory control and data acquisition] systems that control and monitor different plants in certain states. So, if any cyber malware or something like that hits, a lot of states would be out of water. Before I got into the field, I had no clue of the behind-the-scenes things that it took to make sure water is safe, and that you don't have spills that can lead to EPA fines. I came from the nylon industry, so it was a totally different industry for me to jump into.

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What is your educational background, and why did you choose the MPS program?

I have a bachelor's in electronics engineering. I wanted to get into something different—as well as move a little closer to family. I would always ask myself, “What would I want to do long-term, career-wise?” With everything that's going on in the world of cyber, I decided that I wanted to move into that field. I reached out to Utica College and talked to one of the advisors.

I had thought about the MS in Cybersecurity program, but after talking to the adviser, I just thought the Cyber Policy was a better fit, especially if I wanted to move more towards a managerial position or something of that nature. He said that the MPS degree gives you more for actually going straight into the field. Plus, UC has their designations with the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security. That's what made me really choose Utica and this program.

How has the master’s degree affected your career?

Actually, I received an information security analyst position for another company my last week of school. Everything kind of just fell in place.

I will be working within the electricity sector and with a lot of the power grids around the United States and internationally. It’s going to be another great opportunity!

I think the MPS program helped my career significantly because they were looking for somebody new to cybersecurity. So yeah, it definitely helped me to get this position!

Is an engineering background helpful for students who are thinking about the MPS?

I don't think they need an IT background or an engineering background. The program provides a great foundation for cybersecurity as a whole. One class might have been challenging for some people that don’t have a lot of technical knowledge, but the teacher was very good at helping you get to the point where you needed to be, technology-wise.

What did you find especially useful or interesting in the curriculum?

Definitely the policy aspect of it and dealing with the different legalities associated with organizations, as far as if they've been hacked or when you're dealing with third-party vendors. Also, my cyber conflict class, which was more technical and dealt with penetration testing. I really, really enjoyed that, not just because it was the technical side, but also because you actually got to see how easy it is to hack into somebody's computer. You actually do it in the class.

Would you recommend Utica?

I have nothing but good things to say about the Cyber Policy program. I would definitely recommend it to somebody who is looking to get into the cybersecurity field, even if they don't know much about cybersecurity. I think this would be a perfect program for them to get into.

For more information on the online MPS in Cyber Policy and Risk Analysis program at Utica College, complete the form or call us at 315.732.2640—or toll free at 866.295.3106.