Being prepared for opportunities when they arrive is something most every smart professional seeks. The time to prepare for opportunities in an industry like Cybersecurity is now so that when those opportunities present themselves, you are ready.
For this episode of UMBC's Mic'd Up Podcast, we chat with Anthony Fischetti '21, MPS Cybersecurity about how he prepared for the cybersecurity role he is in today.
About UMBC's graduate programs in Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is a dynamic industry that not only is constantly changing, but has grown to impact all aspects of government, business, and society. Accordingly, qualified cybersecurity professionals are in high demand at all levels, from technologists and warriors to managers, directors, and cybersecurity leaders. UMBC’s graduate programs in cybersecurity will prepare you to excel in this rapidly growing field.
Dennise Cardona 0:00
Thank you for joining us for this episode of UMBC's Mic'd Up Podcast. I am here with Anthony. He is going to talk about his experience with the cybersecurity graduate program. Welcome, Anthony. Hey, good morning. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself in terms of your professional endeavors and the educational journey that brought you to UMBC?
Anthony Fischetti 0:22
Sure. So I actually did my undergraduate degree in Information Systems from UMBC. So finished that in 2016. And right after that, I during my time at UMBC undergrad I did a couple internships. It was a company called, oh, Sara, they're nonprofit, they were in Northern Virginia supported the Department of Veterans Affairs. So we had a contract with them working on open source software regarding their hospital information system. And so I ended up out of college working there for four years. And we are funding and our contract on it whittled down and that last year, and we ended up shutting down the company. So in February of 2020. It was it was time to look for something now. My I guess third year there, as I mentioned, things were kind of slowing down. As we were looking for funding. I had a little time on my hands. So I looked into graduate school. And that's what led me to the cybersecurity program. So I took two and a half years to complete the program. But yeah, in February 2020, I was looking for employment, it was right before the pandemic. So I interviewed in person with the Office of cyber infrastructure and computational biology, inside of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases. So I became an IT project coordinator, and the project management branch of OCI CB, and so I interviewed in person and on like March 3, or something, and unfortunately, I haven't ever been in the office again. But you know, very fortunately, I've been employed for the past year and a half. And I'm really enjoying my time there. And I've gotten to learn more. I was healthcare IT. And now this is very, you know, scientific research related to information system. So still right up my alley, but I'm really enjoying that.
Dennise Cardona 2:43
Oh, that's fantastic. Anthony, really happy to hear that. Were you? So were you still in the graduate program when you applied to this particular organization?
Unknown Speaker 2:52
Yeah. So I was able to have it on my resume is completing in 2021. So this, I had, I was able to tell them, yeah, I'm in the middle of a semester. Right now I've got two more to go. And I'll have this, you know, cybersecurity degree, including the certificate I was able to complete, I love to talk about that. At some point, I think that's a really good class of the program, I was able to onboard a new job and you know, complete, you know, the curriculum courses I needed to.
Dennise Cardona 3:23
Well, now that you mentioned it, let's jump into that whole certificate aspect of the program. What was it that appealed to you the most about that?
Unknown Speaker 3:32
Well, the way it's set up is, you know, you got your six core classes, and you got four electives. And it's up to you what you want to do with those four electives. So you can pick your certificate, you could just take, you know, maybe to one and to the other and not necessarily get that certificate, but get, you know, the knowledge and the diverse areas of just exposure to everything. But yeah, I decided to do the I'm very policy based. So I felt like my information systems background kind of set me up to go policy management, you know, over technical operations. So I ended up doing that. And yeah, it's nice to be able to have a certificate and it really kind of, for me, made it feel like I went on a track, you know, so I was focused on the policy side of cyber security.
Dennise Cardona 4:24
Great. So in addition to your master's degree, you have a certificate as well. So you've got those two credentials that are really powerful when you get out there in the workforce. In terms of applying to the program. I always like to ask a lot of a lot of students a lot of prospective students have this sort of maybe fear is might might not be the right word, but maybe hesitation about applying to the program because there are many questions that run through a prospective students mind. And could you talk me through what that was like for you? Did you have a slight hesitation at All? And, you know, what was the? How did you overcome that? What was it that said, Okay, I'm going to do this because it's, it's totally worth to
Unknown Speaker 5:08
do that's actually an easy one. I mean, of course I was, you know worried about workload, you know how I was going to pay for it and know whether I was going to have the time. And the there was an open house. So I participated the shady grove campus, and then open house one night, I shut up, and I'm gonna talk to the director of the program, I got to speak to a lot of students that I ended up, you know, in my intro classes with, and other professors were there. So I, you know, they really sold it to me really, just by telling me exactly what I was getting myself into. And, you know, answering those questions, whether it's the answers you're looking for or not, I think it you know, figuring out the unknown helped me get to the point where, hey, I want to get into this.
Dennise Cardona 6:00
Questioning that the questioning of the unknown is really important. That's critical thinking skills right there one on one, which is really important when you are a professional out in the world, and being able to dive into that sort of analysis mode to be able to see Hey, is this you know, are these answers what I am looking for not looking for? Is it okay, if it's not what I'm looking for? And, you know, did they address it in a way that makes it made it seem like, well, that's even more important than what I thought. So those are all really important questions. I know, for myself, I was considering a graduate program last year, August 2020. And I had those same exact questions. I ended up talking with the program director who I whom I know very well, because I market the program. But I also talked to some instructors in the program. And, you know, I had questions, specific questions, the same thing about workload about things of that sort, and I haven't been to school in, gosh, 30 years, I'm aging myself. But if it had been 30 years, I'm a non traditional student by those standards. And I was concerned, I haven't been in a college environment since 1997. And they assured me that this is all set up to help people succeed. Why did you choose the cybersecurity program? Because I, you did mention something about health information technology. And I know we do have a graduate program in that as well. So What had you looked into that? And was there something specific about the cybersecurity graduate program that made you say, this is the one that is definitely made for me?
Unknown Speaker 7:32
Yeah, there's a few things there actually. When I enrolled, I enrolled in the technical management degree. So I have the project management, professional certification, I've always been doing, you know, project management for it. And so I thought, technical management, you know, that that sounds like what I've been doing already, let's get, you know, further educated in it. And I was able to use my elective. So my first two semesters, I took, you know, two core classes each semester and technical management, and then an elective that can go towards the cybersecurity policy certificate. And after the first year, I just as much as I did love the technical management courses, I was sold in the cybersecurity program. So I made the switch, I ended up taking, I guess, an extra class. But it was, it was definitely the right decision. It was something that they just pulled me in with my it background already. And I really can't imagine not doing the cybersecurity program at this point. Because just being an I take it project coordinator and implementing, you know, policies from the government level. It's so cybersecurity focus, that I would have been picking up on these things on the go when I really showed up with I mean, I'd completed at least three semesters, four semesters. And I knew this stuff, just from talking to classmates and obviously the coursework. But yeah, so, you know, I went from technical management to cybersecurity,
Dennise Cardona 9:16
What is it about the cybersecurity industry that you love the most? I think
Unknown Speaker 9:21
A lot of people you know, love it, some some for that unknown. They hear things about it. And it can be interesting, it can be intimidating, but overall, it's really manageable, especially with this program. You know, we had software engineers, we had political science graduates, you know, we had long time, you know, other industry professionals showing up to intro classes, and the professor is specifically an intro made it work for all levels of understanding because there is a lot of entry points in this program and I think because it worked for everyone is, is one reason it worked for me. Because, you know, some people had they get up to speed on information systems, I didn't necessarily have to do that. So I was, I was already looking at this, this and this in the cybersecurity world. But you know, at the end of that course, we're all ready for the next one. Um, but I think for me, the big thing that I like about it is that I almost have to know it. So I like having the education and not having to, you know, have my coworkers pick up my slack because I'm, I'm in this field that has now turned in to cybersecurity and Information Systems, not just developing IT systems, and it's getting embedded, and you know, for the better
Dennise Cardona 10:54
In your experience with going to graduate school, having your masters now with a certificate as well. Do you feel that what you expected out of the program that you received? And secondly, are you glad? Like, do you feel it's necessary for somebody in your field to have that advanced education?
Unknown Speaker 11:17
I think it's the leg up for sure. Both resume wise. And, you know, when you're hands on in your position. We know whether you're getting on the job, or you know, through a program for me, I think I needed a degree program like this, even if I didn't get the degree, I mean, taking a few classes just would have been a huge help. Anyways, I wasn't getting the experience in my job. You know, I had, we were looking for funding. So I was, you know, trying to compete contracts and do different stuff I'd never done before, it was all fun. But, you know, I would have felt a little left out applying for jobs, doing it project management, when I had been a little bit distant from it. But having this I mean, it was really a side gig, that I was learning, you know, intensive, you know, cybersecurity for it. And I mean, it was it was almost as good as experienced, to be honest, whether, whether that's centered on the resume, or you know, just how it translated to my day to day.
Dennise Cardona 12:33
Yeah, that applied factor of the program is really important. Yeah, it's very applied. Now, what challenged surprised you, once you started into the program, what's your something that did do that to you,
Unknown Speaker 12:46
yet, the way the program is set up, being a Master's of Professional Studies, implements the hands on experience, and a lot of that's done in a realistic setting, which is with a group of people. So learning to work with a group of people throughout the Cybersecurity MPS degree really helped me translate that to real world, world applications. When I'm working in my job. With a group, you're delegating work, you're figuring out people's strengths and weaknesses. A lot of people in that program didn't have that experience. I had some of it. So people kind of fell into their roles. And it really mimics a time where you're working on a project. You got deadlines, you got things you got to accomplish. You know, it's very realistic.
Dennise Cardona 13:39
That's a great answer. I, I couldn't agree more. It does mimic the real world, you're doing projects that essentially you find out in the real world and they help you to find solutions by challenging you right to think outside of the box and to come up with new strategies that otherwise you may never never have come up with. Because it does challenge you to dig deeper and find solutions to
Unknown Speaker 14:05
real world issues. It's a lot different than doing a group project and undergrad, I think everyone has a level of maturity and understanding. Because, you know, eight out of 10 people I'd say you know, have worked before full time. So when you're working on a project, people take it as a job and, and it's definitely very different.
Dennise Cardona 14:27
What did you learn from your fellow students?
Unknown Speaker 14:31
I learned a lot from my fellow students. The professor's set it up in a way that they knew discussion was going to bring out a lot of information for a lot of different people, people with different backgrounds, some tech technical, some non technical, having discussions, people asking questions you didn't know you needed to ask. There's one course I had where just kind of as, as some, you know, bonus exposure. We had a couple For presentations throughout the semester, where everyone picked a topic, that kind of a trending cybersecurity issue, research that, you know, for few weeks and, you know, brought it to class and gave a quick presentation on it, and both through the presentations, and then the follow up discussion. I mean, I learned on topics I learned how cryptocurrencies work, quantum computing, I remember things that, I don't know, I guess I could have read up on it for a few weeks. But, you know, having this understanding from appear, it really, you know, changed it for me. And, yeah, I remember one professor just capitalizing on everyone's experiences, to provide education to the rest of the class,
Dennise Cardona 15:47
There's really there's not, it's hard to explain to somebody who doesn't experience that peer to peer learning. It really is something dynamic that happens in the class, when you have these critical discussions, and you learn about you kind of view the world through different lenses. And you wouldn't have had that opportunity unless you put yourself in that situation, that environment of those critical discussions with people from different perspectives. And there's a lot of value to be derived from conversations like that, like you said, that you can't really pick up in a book, I mean, you can pick up some of it. But when you have that two way, dialogue, that exchange, it's rich, it's just full of just so so much information and that play on back and forth. That's where the real magic of a conversation takes hold, and some really great insights,
Unknown Speaker 16:38
If you don't know but I almost feel weird, like I'm downplaying, you know, the the coursework and professors experience that they bring to the the learning process by talking about how great the peer to peer learning is, but it's true. It's just a great side effect of what you sign up for. And the best professors, you know, they leveraged it,
Dennise Cardona 16:59
Speaking of best professors. Could you talk a little bit about how the faculty engaged you all and what that was like, with their support their collaboration in your learning things of that sort?
Unknown Speaker 17:13
Yeah, I thought that professors in this program, I think, in my survey, I responded that the professors in this program were the best part, everything they can bring to the table, how they've refined their curriculum, so that it's the most useful it can be to the students. But they bring their real world experiences to the classroom. And that was the most helpful thing for me. Almost every professor I had, I was able to relate to them, what they do, you know, the company they work for, my first professor in the cybersecurity program, worked at a company that I knew very well I worked with, at my old job I interviewed with them. So asking about what he does, and how now the company was for him and how what we're talking about in the classroom relates to what they do. And if I was in an interview, and I was talking about, you know, what I gained through this program, what would they want to hear. And so he obviously taught us stuff like that. They were, I didn't know their professor, where I was in his class, as I was interviewing at, and his organization. And, I mean, I got so much good knowledge, you know, how you're supposed to research the company before you read their whole website, before you go on the interview, I was able to talk to someone there and you know, get more detailed questions that I could ask, you know, government, employees that were professors, you know, they've seen this whole lifecycle of it, and, and where it's going, where it's been. Um, so all of that really played a good part in my learning experience, and specifically, the coursework. You know, everyone can have their gripes when when you're taking a course and you know, there's mandatory assignments and everything. I never really felt I was doing busy work, or it was something I didn't think was gonna further my education. It's really help helping you succeed, you know, rather than check boxes.
Dennise Cardona 19:25
If you could talk to the person you were, before you started this program, maybe the one who might have been a little hesitant about the workload, and even the cost if it was worth the investment. What would you say to that person right now?
Unknown Speaker 19:40
I would tell him I'm not sure there's a better option. I was I'm in the the DC, Maryland, Virginia area. There's reasonable tuition that's that's what I'm costing that that saved me. I was living in Northern Virginia at the time. I'm back in Rockville, but I didn't have to even think about that UMBC was accommodating. workload wise, it's, it's meant for people that have full time jobs. I mean, every professor acknowledges that if you can get to courses in person, I highly suggested there's, you know, everything's pretty much after five or on the weekends. But the hybrid and online are also, you know, great courses as well. So I would definitely tell them to go for it and just jump in, you got to start slow, start slow on whatever works for you. For example, when I, you know, knew that I was going to be looking for a new job, I dropped a course. So I only had, I mean, looking for a job was like a full time job. So I had one course I was doing, rather than the normal two. And I still finished on time. So it's definitely flexible.
Dennise Cardona 20:51
And my last question is, what was your biggest takeaway from the program?
Unknown Speaker 20:56
Well, my biggest takeaway from the cybersecurity program, is how doable cybersecurity is when you're actually in the program, and you're in the world of cybersecurity. It makes so much sense. It's not, you know, wizardry, and, you know, I'm sure you make a lot of money someday, but it's, it's so doable, and it's interesting, it's engaging, and it's gonna set you up for opportunities in the future, because of the importance and immense opportunities that come along with it.
Dennise Cardona 21:30
I can't think of a better way to end this conversation than on that incredible note. I want to thank you for being here with us today on UMBC MIc'd Up podcast. Thank you so much. And thank you. Thank you for taking the time to listen to this episode of UMBC's Mic'd Up podcast. We hope you enjoyed it. If you'd like to learn more about UMBC's graduate programs in cybersecurity, please visit us at cyber.umbc.edu
Transcribed by https://otter.ai