Undergraduate Certificate in Applied Cybersecurity
One of Charles “Jake” Danuser’s earliest memories working with computers dates to grammar school. Jake, “working” alongside his father, fondly recalls inserting coins into the CD drive tray of his dad’s desktop computer. At that time, few considered Jake’s failed attempts to “scan” his fortune a foreshadowing of a successful information technology career. Yet, nearly two decades later, Jake is a technical security consultant at AHEAD, a leading strategic consulting and managed services company supporting countless enterprises across multiple industries.
Jake no longer unwittingly breaks computers. Rather, he quite deliberately breaks “into” computers assessing vulnerabilities and assigning solutions to eliminate weaknesses and mitigate risk.
Jake is a proud 2022 graduate of SANS.edu Applied Cybersecurity Undergraduate Certificate program. Here, he talks to us about his experience enrolled as a SANS.edu certificate student and offers sage advice and insight to others considering a similar path.
Q. How did you get interested in cybersecurity?
A. For as long as I can remember I have been “messing” around with computers. Middle school summers were spent at bootcamps designed to teach me to write code. Instead, I found myself in the back of the classroom with some of the instructors. Here we challenged ourselves to hack into each other’s computers.
Q. Prior to attending the SANS Technology Institute, what was your educational background?
A. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from Eastern Tennessee State University with a minor in Economics. It seems that my passion for information technology took a hiatus during my mid high school years and when it came time to choose a college major.
Q. What prompted you to switch gears and pursue a career in cybersecurity?
A. My college career was centered on philosophy and economics. These were two subject areas that I found very interesting, yet, as time went on, I began to question how I would transform this educational path into a lucrative career. Like manna from heaven, a New York Times article appeared in my news feed touting the thousands and thousands of open cybersecurity positions nationwide. It was then that I knew what I wanted to do. Junior year of college I looked to dual major in philosophy and cybersecurity. Unfortunately, college administrators said no and for good reason. East Tennessee State University had yet to launch their cybersecurity program. So, I finished out my college education without curriculum changes. I used free online cybersecurity training resources and self-taught lessons to get a bit up to speed before finally ending up at SANS.edu.
Q. What does your job at AHEAD entail?
A. I am a cybersecurity consultant. I assess my clients’ computer systems, networks, software, and other technologies for vulnerabilities and develop and implement the best and most appropriate security solutions to minimize risk and mitigate damage. I am really enjoying my job!
Q. What do you like most about cybersecurity?
A. I love the everchanging landscape. If you work in this field, you must be prepared to look to the future and remain on the leading edge of technology. It is quite exciting. I am learning every day.
Q. How do you hone your cybersecurity skills amid everchanging challenges?
A. I have a deep passion for cybersecurity and try to learn and sharpen my skills every day. This means participating in SANS cyber range events, entering Capture the Flag competitions, tackling TryHackMe and Hack the Box challenges, and building IDS systems at home.
Q. How did you hear about SANS Technology Institute?
A. When I told people in my field that I was looking to earn cybersecurity certifications, everyone responded with SANS.edu. SANS was touted as the best.
Q. Why did you choose to enroll in SANS Technology Institute?
A. It’s simple. I was looking for the best hands-on training in the marketplace. I wanted to gain the skills needed to quickly secure a well-paying job with a solid company post-graduation. I wanted the gold standard in the industry. SANS checked all the boxes.
Q. How did you pay for SANS.edu?
A. For me, SANS.edu was expensive. I questioned whether I could afford it. However, it was clear to me that if I wanted to get a good job, than I need to be trained by the best. SANS structured a payment plan that made it doable for me, including an income share agreement whereby, SANS would be allotted a percentage of my income post-graduation to cover the tuition costs. Between starting and finishing the undergraduate certificate program, I made enough salary gains to pay for the program twice. I’d say that is a pretty good ROI.
Q. From your research how did the SANS program differ from other programs of its kind?
A. I was looking for a program that offered certifications that had well-recognized value in the industry. I was far-less interested in a degree-based program that would not offer the hands-on opportunities promised by SANS.
Q. What did you find most valuable about the SANs.edu program?
A. Hands down — the quality of the training. I loved the labs. In fact, the real-world labs are the big reason I chose SANS. I would say that SANS.edu is about 50% hands on labs. There is a complementary lab for every learning module. I learn best by doing not reading. SANS offered the best instructional format for me.
Q. Did you take classes online or at live events?
A. I took all classes online. I would have liked to take a class or two in person for the experience. I was working full time and it was not possible. I don’t think that this negatively impacted my overall education. Perhaps I missed a few networking opportunities. On the plus side, the courses were on demand, which allowed me to watch the videos over and over if there were concepts and actions that I did not grasp.
Q. How has your SANS.edu degree impacted your career trajectory?
A. I directly attribute my current job to the SANS certificates that I earned through SANS.edu. SANS certificates are well recognized and well respected across the industry and around the world. They stand above all others and have the power to move recipients to the top of the resume pile. Employers take notice when a candidate has SANS certification.
Q. What advice would you offer someone considering applying to the SANS Technology Institute?
A. I love SANS.edu and highly recommend the program. I incessantly promote SANS to people I meet in online industry forums. What I say to people is, “I did my research. It is the best program of its kind in the industry and I did a lot of investigating. I looked at about 50 schools. I was searching for the best deals with the best ROI. SANS rose to the top every time.” The people are great; the school is great; there's nothing not to love.
Q. What’s next for you?
A. I am relatively new in my position at work so I am not planning on any major career shifts now. However, I do see myself looking toward AI machine learning in the future. I expect to enroll in another SANS course on Cloud Security soon.
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