Richard “Rick” Halsell Jr.
What do the military, yoga pants and an iced vanilla latte have in common? Richard “Rick” Halsell Jr. Rick has protected the cyber networks of world-renowned organizations including the United States Army, Starbucks and most recently, Lululemon.
Rick is a United States Air Force and United States Army veteran who proudly served our country for 23 years. Prior to his retirement from the U.S. Army, Rick served as cybersecurity analyst/incident responder, chief warrant officer for more than four years. He defended the U.S. Army against network breaches and malicious software and viruses. When Rick transferred from the U.S. Air Force to the U.S. Army to become a warrant officer, he knew that this move would give him the experience needed to walk out of the service toward a meaningful and rewarding second career.
Rick earned a graduate certificate in Cybersecurity Engineering from SANS.edu in May 2021. He completed the program in two years. Here Rick talks to us about his experience with the SANS.edu graduate certificate program and offers advice to those considering a similar path.
Q. Prior to attending the SANS Technology Institute, what was your educational background?
A. I entered the U.S. Air Force not long after high school graduation. While in the service, I graduated from University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in Information Systems Management. I earned a master’s degree in Information Systems: Telecommunications Management from UMGC in 2011.
Q. What is your current job and what is your role?
A. I am a senior security engineer for Lululemon Athletica, a leading athletic apparel retailer with over 500 stores globally. I provide cybersecurity support to company headquarters, as well as the store support center. Essentially, I am doing what I did as a cyber security warrant officer. I am responsible for the security and hygiene of the network. I've been in this position for nearly three years. Prior to that, I was a lead cybersecurity analyst at Starbucks.
Q. Why did you choose to enroll in SANS Technology Institute's graduate program?
A. While in the U.S. Army, I was assigned to work with a government agency. We were trained by SANS. I had a terrific experience and received tremendous exposure to the SANS curriculum. When it was time for me to bolster my cybersecurity education, I knew that SANS was the best training around.
Q. From your research how did the SANS.edu program differ from other programs of its kind?
A. SANS provides a practical, hands-on education. That's the thing about SANS, every day you learn something new that you can use on the job the very next day. My other degree programs were theory based. The curriculum was sometimes dated.
Q. What did you find most valuable about the program?
A. You cannot overestimate the value of the SANS name recognition. In the cyberworld, you will be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't recognize the SANS name and understand the top-notch training provided. Having a SANS degree tells employers that you have what it takes to do the job. You have the hands-on experience to get the job done from day one. The SANS name truly opens doors.
Q. Due to COVID-19 all your classes were online. What was your experience with the online classes?
A. I really liked the online classes. I can focus better watching videos and reading at my own pace rather than listening to in-person lectures. So for me, all online courses was an ideal scenario.
Q. How has your SANS.edu degree impacted your career trajectory?
A. There are countless career paths within cybersecurity. SANS.edu really helped me dial in on a direction. And then, SANS helped me figure out a path to meet my long-term goal of becoming a cybersecurity architect.
Q. What advice would you offer someone considering applying to the SANS Technology Institute?
A. I would say clear your schedule. Give it a shot. I promise you; you won't be disappointed. If you are even remotely interested in cybersecurity start now. SANS has so many offerings. You'll find a path that interests you. SANS.edu will pay off if you dedicate yourself to the program.
Q. What's next for Rick Halsell Jr.?
A. I am enrolled in the SANS.edu graduate
certificate program in Cloud Security. That certification will help me
fill in some of the knowledge gaps that I have and will get me one step
closer to my vision of becoming a cybersecurity architect.