Megan Roddie proved her academic prowess at an early age. Megan enrolled in college at 14 years old while simultaneously working toward her high school diploma, which she was awarded just two years later. By the tender age of 21, Megan earned both a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a master’s degree in Digital Forensics from Sam Houston University.
Most recently, Megan received her second master’s degree, an M.S. in Information Security Engineering from SANS.edu. She completed the master’s program in just under three years. Megan carried over credits from her existing SANS certifications and was able to save money and graduate earlier than anticipated. Today, Megan is not only a proud SANS.edu graduate; she is a SANS faculty member and is one of the authors of the SANS course FOR509: Enterprise Cloud Forensics and Incident Response.
Here Megan talks to us about her experience as a master’s degree student at SANS.edu and offers guidance and personal insight to others considering a similar path.
Q. How did you get interested in cybersecurity?
A. I was young when I entered college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just knew I liked math so I majored in Mathematics. While in college I secured an internship as a cybersecurity analyst for the Texas Department of Public Safety. That was my first introduction to cybersecurity and I was hooked. I loved it. Armed with little knowledge of computers, I ended up minoring in computer science to prepare myself for graduate studies in digital forensics.
Q. What is your current position? What does that entail?
A. I am a senior security engineer at IBM in Austin, Texas. I build detection tools for security systems to identify malicious activity.
Q. What do you like most about cybersecurity?
A. Cybersecurity involves a lot of problem solving. It forces one to think abstractly to find solutions. That is how my brain works best.
Q. How did you hear about SANS Technology Institute?
A. While working for the Texas Department of Public Safety, my colleagues and I were sent to SANS.edu courses so I was already familiar with the organization. I loved the classes and knew I wanted to take additional certification courses. When I heard about the master’s program, I figured it would be far more cost-effective to go the master’s route rather than one certificate course at a time. The master’s program includes nine coveted GIAC certifications plus a master’s degree. It just seemed to make the most sense for me.
Q. How did you finance your SANS education?
A. Originally, I planned on taking advantage of SANS’ no interest monthly payment plan; however, after I enrolled my employer offered to pay the bulk of the tuition.
Q. From your research how did the SANS.edu program differ from other programs of its kind?
A. I did not investigate other programs because I knew what I wanted. SANS is different from traditional master’s programs. SANS is geared toward full-time professionals and offers unprecedented flexibility. The program would allow me to pause if I needed to and take one course at a time online or in-person. Most importantly, the training is practical and taught by real-world professionals; people working in the field at the highest levels. I knew that SANS certifications and a degree would give me a resume that would capture the attention of top employers nationwide.
Q. What did you find most valuable about the program?
A. The practical knowledge gained versus impractical academia is what truly sets SANS.edu apart and that is where the real value is.
Q. Did you take classes online or at live events?
A. I took one in-person class. Primarily, I focused on the on-demand classes. It is a better format for my learning style and my busy schedule. I’m not a person who can sit in a classroom for eight hours a day for five days straight. I like to learn at my own pace. That is just my preference.
Q. Can you tell me a bit about your master’s degree research and about your work on FOR509?
A. SANS requires all graduate students to conduct faculty-guided research, write and publish their work and present their findings. This was a wonderful opportunity to build my professional reputation.
My research, Automating Google Workspace Incident Response, was well received. I presented my paper at the SANS Digital Forensics and Incidence Response Summit. My white paper was also published in the SANS Reading Room online. I’ve done webcasts and I am chairing an Incidence Response Solutions forum. My research also caught the attention of SANS instructors. Authors of the SANS FOR509 course Enterprise Cloud Forensics and Incident Response invited me to join their team and develop labs for the class.
Q. How has your SANS.edu degree impacted your career trajectory?
A. SANS offers a diverse and in-depth curriculum. Just look at my certifications. I have certifications in nine subspecialties. This gives me the freedom to pursue any job I want. I have the knowledge and comfort level to move to different fields within cybersecurity and I have the resume to back it up. The greater the credentials the more opportunities and choices I have. Most recently, SANS invited me to become an instructor. I am now taking courses to certify me to do just that.
Q. What advice would you offer someone considering applying to the SANS Technology Institute?
A. My first piece of advice: DO IT! My second piece of advice: choose elective courses aligned with your interests. And my third piece of advice: use the research that you are required to do to build your public image and resume. Turn it into a talk and/or a blog post. Expand on your research. Fully leverage its value.
Q. What’s next for you?
A. My primary focus right now is completing my SANS instructor certification. Additionally, I hope to progress in my career as a detection engineer. I also have a book coming out in spring 2023, Practical Detection Engineering, published by Packt Publishing. Otherwise, I am a go-with-the-flow kind of person. I believe life will take me where it takes me.
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