Good kind of busy

I got in to Cisco's Cybersecurity Training program!

Long anticipated news came in – I got in to Cisco’s Cybersecurity scholarship program. Thousands of people from around the world applied, and I was one of the lucky recipients.

Read about the scholarship here:  Closing the talent gap to secure the future: Cisco rolls out $10 million cybersecurity scholarship

After the initial shock of “I got in!” wore off, I realized that I had to make some major life changes in order to take a full advantage of this opportunity. Cisco’s program provides a very intense 13 week training program complete with readings, videos, virtual labs, assignments, quizzes, discussion forums and live video chats with industry experts. At the successful completion of all requirements, I’ll be given vouchers for two of Cisco’s certification exams: Cisco Cybersecurity Fundamentals (SECFND) and Cisco Cybersecurity Operations (SECOPS).

No pain, no gain

Per Cisco’s estimation, I need to be able to dedicate about 20 hours a week in order to complete this training. Just holding a full time job and trying to do this would be difficult. But now, imagine, holding a full time job, going to college full time AND doing this training program all at the same time. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to make it all happen. I had to sacrifice one fo these three. Which one was it?  (I said goodbye to personal/family life when I signed up for college full time so that’s why those aren’t even on the list)

I sacrificed work. I explained my situation to my employer and they agreed to cut down my work hours for the duration of the training. With this out of the way, it should be more manageable. Can I sigh with relief yet?

But wait, there’s more.

Well, this isn’t all I’m doing at this time. It just happened that while waiting for an answer from Cisco (which took several months), I signed up for a free Cyber Security program offered by University of Helsinki (this one). This training is free so it’s not a priority like college and the Cisco program, and it’s a bit more time flexible so it hasn’t been a burden on my sensitive timeline but it’s nevertheless an additional activity to add to my overstretched calendar.

Even though it’s not a priority, I don’t want to quit it. From the lessons and exercises I’ve completed so far, this program holds a promise of a very valuable training resource which should prove to be a great complement to what I’ll learn from Cisco. For example, I’ve already completed two exciting assignments. One was to create a port scanner in Java (I don’t really know Java so I had to improvise – successfully). The other was using Telnet to discover a secret protocol (also, not my specialty – yet – but in the end I figured it out).

Busy busy busy…

It’s amazing that I’ve got all of those opportunities at the same time. It’s scary and stressful but this is a good kind of busy. It keeps me motivated. It helps me see the goal of what I’m trying to achieve.

I think the biggest motivator for me is seeing the results. I’m actually good at all this techie stuff!  I’ve been absorbing knowledge like a hungry sponge and it’s almost addicting. I keep craving more.

Reflection time

When I think back to the previous few years, I’m not jealous of the old me who didn’t have to worry about deadlines and assignments and learning brand new concepts on the fly. I’m not envious of the amount of time I didn’t know I had on my hands. That old me didn’t know what to do with herself. She didn’t have a goal. She went from day to day fearful of the future because she was unsure of what comes next.

Current me knows what will come next. Knowledge. Progress. Continuous learning. Because I won’t stop. There’s so much exciting developments, new technology, so many interests to pursue to occupy me for a lifetime. I don’t want to waste any more time sitting in front of TV, achieving nothing, getting nowhere.

Just since the beginning of this year, since I went back to college, I’ve learned more skills and gained more real-world perspective than I have in  15 years of work combined. There is no substitution for motivation. I brag about my grades because I’m proud of myself. I was never a pure A student before but look at me now: 4.0 GPA and all achieved with such limited time on my hands. And I’m not stopping there. I keep putting more pressure on myself to keep learning, keep racing towards that goal.

If I can pass on one piece of advice to anyone reading this, I’ll say, take a chance on yourself. Find what you truly want and do all you can to get there. No one else can do this for you. This is your own journey. Find what drives you and use it to make it happen.

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