Next year will be a remarkable one for Kaela Manger, as she marries the man she loves and launches her full-time career in a field she loves. In summer 2024, just a few months after the couple’s “I do’s,” Kaela will be awarded her bachelor’s degree in Applied Cybersecurity from the SANS Technology Institute.
A puzzle lover and problem solver at heart, Kaela has an inquisitive personality that drew her to technology. Her desire to make a positive contribution to the world attracted her to cybersecurity.
Currently, when Kaela is not studying for her bachelor’s degree, she is a consultant at JRPC InfoSec, a top-tier threat intelligence and security services company composed of industry leaders. She is also a part-time instructor at ThriveDX, a global leader in cybersecurity and digital skills training and advanced professional development programs through collaboration with universities and corporations.
Here Kaela shares her story and offers insights for those who may be interested in following a similar path.
Q. How did you get interested in technology?
A. I am someone who likes to figure out how things work or why they don’t work. I used to spend hours with my father as a child building things and taking things apart. I loved solving technical and mechanical problems. Technology seemed like a natural next step as I grew older. It really appealed to me.
Q. What is your current position?
A. I work as a consultant at JRPC InfoSec. We provide threat intel and information security services. The team consists of some of the best in the field! I also work part time teaching cybersecurity to people trying to change careers and break into the field. I love mentoring others by sharing my knowledge and my experiences. I get my passion and aptitude for training others from my mom.
Q. What do you like most about cybersecurity?
A. When it comes to cybersecurity, you can never know it all. Learning never stops. Further, there are so many career paths that you can take within cybersecurity and that means endless opportunities.
Q. Prior to attending the SANS Technology Institute, what was your educational background?
A. I have an Associate of Applied Science in Systems Administration and Networking with a concentration in cybersecurity at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona.
Q. How did you hear about the SANS Technology Institute?
A. Once I decided to get my bachelor’s degree, my fiancé encouraged me to apply to the SANS.edu program. He has been in the cybersecurity field for much longer than me. He knew of SANS’ stellar reputation.
Q. Why did you choose to enroll in the SANS Technology Institute?
A. I explored cyber bachelor’s degree programs at a few different universities; however, SANS’ GIAC certifications really set the program apart from the others. This industry is competitive, and I wanted to ensure that I would have an edge over others when seeking a job. I knew SANS would give me that. Further, I spoke with a number of well-trusted people in the industry and they praised the quality of the courses and the hands-on training opportunities.
Q. From your research how did the SANS program differ from other programs of its kind?
A. I found that many of the other programs I looked at focused more on theory and policy than practical skills. SANS.edu places an emphasis on real-world skills — skills that will enhance my value as an information security professional. And of course, the opportunity to secure highly valuable GIAC certifications within the program set it apart.
Q. How did you fund the program?
A. SANS offered me an income share agreement. This means that I don’t pay anything while going through the program. I only pay after I secure a job and make a minimum of $40,000 a year. Until then, no interest is accrued. After that, SANS takes 8% from my salary until the tuition is paid in full. Without the income share agreement, I don’t think I would have been able to attend SANS.edu.
Q. What did you find most valuable about the program?
A. SANS.edu does a lot of things very well. If I had to pick one thing though, I’d say the labs. They are terrific. SANS does an excellent job creating curriculum designed to give students real life skills. I already see my SANS education coming into play when I am interviewing and taking assessments for jobs.
Q. Did you take classes online or at live events?
A. I took on-demand classes. I really like how I am able to go at my own pace. I can pause. I can revisit. It worked well for me.
Q. How has the SANS.edu Career Center helped you in your search for jobs?
A. The Career Center helped me improve my resume. They’ve also referred me to job openings.
Q. How has your SANS.edu degree impacted your career trajectory?
A. It is a little too soon for me to answer this question. However, I will say that the knowledge gained through SANS has helped me during job interviews and on employment assessments. I don’t think I would have done nearly as well without my SANS background.
Q. What advice would you offer someone considering applying to the SANS Technology Institute?
A. Make sure you are passionate about cybersecurity. It is a challenging field. Also, know that strong time management skills will be critically important to successfully complete the SANS.edu bachelor’s program. And to avoid stress-induced fatigue, schedule breaks. For instance, I’ll take a 2- to 4-week break between courses, so I don’t become burned out.
Q. What’s next for you?
A. I want to go down the offensive security path. I really enjoy exploring vulnerabilities, figuring out how to exploit them and learning about the remediations. I’m also planning to get involved in bug bounties.
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