Success Stories

James Turner

James Turner

Undergraduate Certificate in Applied Cybersecurity
Bachelor's Degree in Applied Cybersecurity
Master of Science in Information Security Engineering

In a previous life, James Turner donned the hat of an electrician during the day, while moonlighting as a computer programming student at a technical school. His dual existence led him to programming control systems — a role that set the stage for his future endeavors. Unlike his fellow electricians, James possessed an innate understanding of programming, which brought him immense satisfaction.

However, after nearly two decades of electrical work, James found himself yearning for more. The physical toll and lack of mental stimulation prompted him to seek a change. His desire was to blend his passion for industrial controls with his existing skills and knowledge in a fresh and innovative way.

Fast forward to today, James is an ICS/OT solution architect at MSI Tec, Inc. This technology-driven solutions provider specializes in automation, motion control, robotics, and industrial computing and networking. James now navigates the intricate landscape of industrial systems, safeguarding them against cyber threats and ensuring their optimal performance. His journey from electrician to solution architect is a testament to the power of adaptation, passion, and continuous learning.

As a 2022 graduate of the SANS Technology Institute’s Applied Cybersecurity Certificate program and a 2023 graduate of’s bachelor’s degree program in Applied Cybersecurity, James has earned nine certifications, including three certifications in industrial controls and the Certified Information Systems Security Progressional (CISSP) from ISC2. Most recently, James was accepted into the Master of Science in Information Security Engineering (MSISE) program at

Here, James shares insights for those who are considering a similar path.

“During my research into schools and programs specializing in cybersecurity, consistently stood out based on its hands-on approach, inclusion of GIAC certifications, and the flexibility of its on-demand courses.”

Q. How did you get interested in cybersecurity?

A. My role as an electrician was very focused on working with many types of control systems. So, I’d say I’ve always been in the tech field. My interest in understanding how to apply security to these complex systems led me to cybersecurity. My passion for cybersecurity was further ignited at my first DEFCON event. The sense of belonging and shared curiosity within this community deeply resonated with me, and the annual convention continues to fuel my enthusiasm for the field.

Q. What is your current position? What does that entail?

A. Currently I am an ICS/OT solution architect at MSI Tec, Inc. I’ve been with MSI Tec for about 12 years. I provide pre-sales technical support and technical expertise to our customers. I guide clients across various industries in selecting suitable cybersecurity and networking solutions. My role involves understanding diverse industry needs and aligning our products to meet these requirements effectively.

Q. What do you like most about cybersecurity?

A. Cybersecurity is like trying to solve a constantly changing Rubik’s Cube. I love solving puzzles. I am compelled by the iterative nature of cybersecurity. The field is constantly evolving, presenting new challenges, and learning opportunities. This environment fosters continual personal and professional growth which keeps my passion for the field alive.

Q. Prior to attending the SANS Technology Institute, what was your educational background?

A. Before attending SANS Technology Institute, I completed an associate degree in Applied Science in Software Engineering in 2000 through ITT Technical Institute.

Q. How did you hear about SANS Technology Institute?

A. My journey to began approximately three years ago when I embarked on a personal mission to enhance my cybersecurity skills. During my research into schools and programs specializing in this field, SANS consistently stood out based on its hands-on approach to cybersecurity, which greatly appealed to me.

Q. Why did you choose to enroll in bachelor's program?

A. My decision to enroll in SANS’ bachelor's program came after realizing my natural aptitude and curiosity for technology while enrolled in SANS’ undergraduate Applied Cybersecurity Certificate program.

Q. From your research, how did differ from other programs of its kind?

A. SANS distinguished itself through its inclusion of GIAC certifications and the flexibility of its on-demand courses, which were ideal for my situation as a working professional. The other critical differentiator was SANS ability to offer a roadmap that aligned with my desire to continue working with industrial controls.

Q. How did you fund the program? What was your experience securing funding?

A. My undergraduate certificate was funded with employer assistance. I paid for my bachelor’s degree using returns on my investments.

Q. What did you find most valuable about the program?

A. The program’s most valuable components were the comprehensive curriculum and practical lab exercises. The labs were absolutely relevant, allowing learners to study at their own pace. Notably, courses like SEC 503, ICS 456, and ICS 515 provided in-depth knowledge, while SEC 573 stood out as exceptionally challenging and rewarding.

Q. Can you tell me about winning the Assante Scholars Award?

A. Winning the Assante Scholars Award caught me by surprise — an unexpected honor. This prestigious recognition celebrates academic excellence, particularly in the realm of industrial control systems. Initially, I hadn’t set out with the intention of receiving this award; I merely found it intriguing. However, I never imagined myself among a group of individuals capable of achieving such distinction. While I consider myself average, these remarkable individuals are truly extraordinary. The award served as validation of my academic endeavors in the field of industrial controls, and it also presented me with a unique opportunity to engage with industry leaders.

Q. Can you tell me about your internship as an analyst in the Internet Storm Handler Center?

A. As an intern analyst, I took on the responsibility of identifying and analyzing attacks on a ‘honeypot’ or decoy server. This challenging and enriching experience allowed me to seamlessly transition from my background in architecture and design to analysis and reporting. Ultimately, I successfully balanced this new role with my existing professional duties, culminating in a published blog post inspired by DEFCON. The blog post, titled Potential Weaponizing of Honeypot Logs, found its home on the Internet Storm Center website.

Q. Did you take classes online or at live events? How was that experience?

A. I took the on-demand classes, which were perfectly suited to my needs as a working professional. It gave me the flexibility to manage my studies alongside work.

Q. Can you tell me about how the student advising experience at worked for you?

A. My advisor Hannah Setters was incredibly supportive. Her encouragement played a crucial role in my journey through the program. She is amazing. Hannah was there when I had doubts about my ability to succeed and move at the required pace. I am so grateful to her.

Q. How has the Career Center helped you in your search for jobs?

A. While I have not been actively job hunting, Erin Sherrill from the Career Center has been invaluable in refining my resume and preparing me for future opportunities. Erin has been incredibly proactive with outreach and assistance.

Q. How have your certifications impacted your career trajectory?

A. The SANS certifications have greatly enhanced my confidence and established a solid foundation of credibility within the cybersecurity sector. My managers have witnessed numerous benefits from my SANS education, particularly my well-honed technical writing skills developed through classes and my SANS internship.

Q. What advice would you offer someone considering applying to

A. Warren Buffet says that the best investment you can make is in yourself. That is what I’ve done by enrolling in I enthusiastically recommend because it offers a comprehensive curriculum, and a solid educational foundation with lasting value. SANS is widely recognized for its certifications across the industry. It is absolutely one of the most credible names in cybersecurity.

Q. What’s next for you?

A. At the age of 46, I am eagerly looking forward to starting the master’s degree program, which I hope to complete in one year. And I am excited for the career that lies ahead of me.

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