Unlike many of his SANS.edu peers, Cody Williams' introduction to information technology was not love at first sight. Conversely, Intro to Programming can be counted among Cody’s most hated high school classes.
Fast forward to freshman year in college. Cody, who was pursuing a degree in engineering, was introduced to MATLAB, a common programming language used by mechanical engineers. What was intended to be a tool to support engineering assignments and projects quickly became the spark that ignited Cody's passion for information technology.
Today, Cody is a consultant at Deloitte, a world-leading advisory services company, working on behalf of many of the world's largest corporations and governmental agencies. He is also an October 2020 graduate of the SANS undergraduate certificate program in Applied Cybersecurity. Here, Cody talks to us about his experience with the SANS.edu ACS program and offers advice to those considering a similar path.
Q. How did you get interested in cybersecurity?
A. My attraction to cybersecurity was somewhat serendipitous. My search for an internship in software development was yielding little success. So, when I caught wind of a six-month cybersecurity internship opportunity with a casino in Las Vegas, home to many of my family members, I decided to give it a try. And the rest is history.
Q. Prior to attending the SANS Technology Institute, what was your educational background?
A. After a brief stint in mechanical engineering, I focused my studies on information technology. I received my bachelor’s degree in computer science from Texas A&M University in May 2020.
Q. Prior to attending the SANS Technology Institute, what was your career background?
A. I just graduated from college in May 2020. My resume is newly minted; and my career has really just started. Not too much to tell. In college, I had a part-time gig in software development for a startup in software development company. I worked there on and off during my four years at Texas A&M.
Q. What is your current job and what is your role?
A. Currently, I am a consultant at Deloitte. I work in the company’s Cyber and Strategic Risk Advisory practice, specializing in Extended Enterprise Risk Management. I work with healthcare industry clients to identify and mitigate software asset management risks. Currently, I am building a security operation center for a client. I’ve been in this position since January 2021.
Q. Why did you choose to enroll in SANS Technology Institute’s ACS program?
A. I received an email from my computer science advisor regarding the Cyber FastTrack competition. He suggested that I check it out. I went for it and ended up becoming a finalist and earning a SANS.edu scholarship. The scholarship covered the cost of three classes and three GIAC certifications. I enrolled in the undergraduate certificate program in December 2019 and graduated in October 2020.
Q. What did receiving the Cyber FastTrack scholarship mean to you?
A. The Cyber FastTrack scholarship was the big break that I needed. My SANS education truly gives me an edge above many of my peers.
Q. How did the ACS program differ from your undergraduate degree program?
A. Compared to most of my college courses, the courses offered through the ACS program were much more thorough and better structured. SANS has done an exceptionally good job of deciding what information is relevant to the specific course and places emphasis where it is necessary.
Q. What did you find most valuable about the program?
A. I really liked that I could take all of my classes online. I do better with self-paced learning. Also, I’ve never attended a class that offered the breadth and depth of information that SANS.edu does. I am just a few months on the job – my first full time cybersecurity job. I know that without my SANS education, I would be so over my head right now. The program is comprehensive and the teachings are relevant to real-world work.
Q. How has your SANS.edu certificate impacted your career trajectory?
A. I had my job offer before I finished the program at SANS.edu. During the interview process, the interviewers knew the SANS name and I was able to speak in a way that demonstrated a level of understanding of cybersecurity fundamentals that they were looking for. SANS made the difference between my being an unemployed college graduate and a well-compensated cyber professional.
Q. What advice would you offer someone considering applying to the SANS Technology Institute?
A. There is a place for everyone in cybersecurity. Just go for it. And don’t be intimidated by the amount of information you will be given. Just know that you won’t know everything. No one does.
Q. What’s next for Cody Williams?
A. I always feared a boring desk job. That is not the case in cybersecurity. Every day I am learning something new. It is challenging and rewarding. And the opportunities are endless. I do not see myself ever veering from a life-long career in cybersecurity.