It seems like every month brings a new high-profile cybersecurity breach. Many companies simply don’t have enough trained cybersecurity professionals to set up effective monitoring, prevention, and incident response protocols.
Sergio Gonzalez designed the 12-month cybersecurity program at Herzing College to produce grads who can meet those challenges. He has more than 20 years of IT experience and knows what it takes to thrive in today’s workforce.
We spoke to Sergio recently to learn more about the program, the online format, and what students can expect in his class. Here’s what he had to say.
Q. What sort of background do you have in cybersecurity?
Sergio: I’ve been working in IT since 1998. I’ve done systems administration and process management, and I’ve had many security roles. First was a project for the government in my home country. Then when I moved to Canada, I worked as a security analyst for a couple years.
For cybersecurity, I’m the instructor, but I also developed the courses for the program. So I have this double role, which is good because sometimes I receive feedback from my students and this feedback is used to improve the courses.
Q. What cybersecurity certifications do you have?
Sergio: The most important one I have is Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) from ISC2. It’s a mid-senior certification that demonstrates that you have an overall view of any security program in any kind of company.
I’m also certified in Cybersecurity Fundamentals through ISACA.
Q. What skills do students learn in the cybersecurity program?
Sergio: They learn broad skills that apply to any position in cybersecurity. I usually compare it to being a doctor. There are doctors that specialize in the bones or the brain or the heart or whatever, but first they need basic training. They need a set of skills that are basic for every kind of doctor.
In that sense, we’re doing the same with cybersecurity. When students do the internship or join a company in the future, they will specialize in something. But first we have to teach them a set of skills that are useful for any kind of position.
We teach a lot of things in one year and it’s quite fast-paced. That’s probably one of the biggest challenges students have. They finish one course and then the very next day they start a new course on a totally different topic.
For example, right now they are learning Windows security. Next week they will be in Linux security, then cloud security, then network security. And these all use different skills and different tools.
There is such a wide range of tools that you cannot teach them all. The intention is to make students as independent as possible, so they will learn something that they can adapt as needed.
Q. You place a heavy emphasis on soft skills, right? Tell us about that.
Sergio: We teach technical tools and knowledge, but the skills we emphasize are mostly soft skills. For example, being more independent and not needing the instructor so much. So if you’re getting an error, go to Google and do some basic research. If you find a blog from someone explaining how to fix it and you don’t understand, I will help you with that. But do some research first.
Another example is critical thinking skills. I tell students that you don’t know the person who is writing a blog. Maybe he’s an expert on security, or maybe he’s just a regular guy. Whatever this person is telling you might be wrong.
Even when you read something from Microsoft or Cisco, they might say something in a way that maybe it’s not wrong, but it’s not totally correct. Microsoft will never recommend that you install a product from IBM, for instance.
The point is that I’m trying to teach students skills like critical thinking, problem solving, being autonomous, being independent. And those are more difficult to teach because you don’t learn those skills in one month. It takes practice, practice, practice.
Q. How does the online format work?
Sergio: Being online is a challenge because in a classroom you have machines and routers and firewalls that the students can physically touch. So how can you replicate that in the online world? How can students get hands-on experience?
The answer is virtualization. We create something called a virtual machine. Using this virtual lab that they can install on their own computer, they have the opportunity to use tools and techniques that are common in the cybersecurity industry. All they need is a computer with at least 8 GB of RAM, which is what most laptops come with.
Q. What kinds of jobs can students get after graduating from the program?
Sergio: They can work in security analysis or on some kind of incident response team, where they investigate security incidents.
Q. What cybersecurity skills do employers want most right now?
Sergio: The skills that are in demand are more related to being independent and proactive than any specific technical skills. Employers know that newcomers might not be familiar with the particular tool that company uses, but they expect you to be able to adapt with little training. They’re looking for people who can adapt quite quickly to a new environment. And that’s what we focus on in this program.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CYBERSECURITY PROGRAM
The online cybersecurity program from Herzing College is just 12 months long and includes a five-week internship for real work experience. Courses cover IT security, ethical hacking, disaster recovery, and more.
Click below to get full program details and chat live with an admissions advisor. We’re here to help!