#3 Career Close-Up: Cybersecurity Transcript



There’s certainly new paths in, in the undergraduate programs. Right? We mentioned it. We mentioned now there’s cybersecurity programs. I know plenty of, of computer engineers or even electrical engineers and computer scientists that have come out of school that have gotten into this world, this realm of cybersecurity.


So I don’t know that that path necessarily dictates where you end up. I do think the different programs, when you look at the curriculum will help determine what makes most sense for you. So the engineering path, for instance, the computer science path, those have you be high advanced math type of requirements.


Right. And if that drains the life on. Then that’s probably not the path you should be choosing. It’s interesting that they can go a couple different ways. Some of our college career clarity episodes are devoted to exploring a career through a conversation with someone thriving in the field. In this career closeup episode, Mike shooter, a chief information security officer for a regional it company joins us to talk about his very career path in.


That eventually led to working in cyber security, which wasn’t even a field. When he started working, Mike start will sound familiar to many parents who have a teen who loves playing video games, but he advises not to take a career in computers out of consideration. Even if you aren’t a gamer or never considered the field, his story demonstrates how a foundation was late tools were massive.


He tried on different specialties and computers, then it all came together, developing into a career that truly fits him. You’ll learn not only about cybersecurity and how he defends computers from malicious use of technology, but other computer in it fields. And the difference between studying engineering, engineering technology, and it in class.


Mike also suggest what extracurriculars can be meaningful in getting hired. If this field is your right fit, I’m Lisa, Mark Robbins, and I want to welcome you to episode three of college and career clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation.


well, hello, Mike shooter. Thank you for joining me today. I thank you, Lisa. I am excited for you to share your story. I would say you’re one of our most engaged and passionate members of. Launch career clarity, Facebook group, you and I have had interactions for gosh, probably four or five years now through your family doing the college bound journey.


That’s really how we met when I spoke at your school. I believe, right? Yep. Probably was about four years ago. My oldest is going through the program and I love what you guys did. Ah, well, thanks. And, and you’ve been a great advocate in front of ours for many years, and you commented on one of our posts within the launch career clarity, Facebook group, giving such great insight.


And I thought I want Mike to come on and share his story and his wisdom around your career area with our launchers who are trying to help their kids make informed decisions along the way. So you’re working in cybersecurity now, right? Is that the best way to. Yeah, that’s right. So my career was a lot of technology and most recently I’m now a chief information security officer for a regional technology.


Okay. Here in Cincinnati, Ohio, where our launch group comes from all over the country. So we are just lucky enough to be in the same hometown. So one of the curiosities families have when they’re doing this or they’re exploring paths is how people got to where they are. So if we go all the way back in time to Mike, as a high school student headed to college, what would you say your original passions or interests were that informed you to start heading down this computer?


It. So I’m starting to sound like my parents when I say back in the day. So this would have been the eighties and nineties. And back then, uh, you know, I was a math and science students and I, I certainly excelled in those areas when it came to schooling. Can you talk about passion? The hobbies that I had, the things that interested me as a kid or video games, I love to.


Arcade and going and playing video games and probably around my junior year, I guess my family bought me my first computer and I started to develop my own video games. So I, how the passion, I guess, that kind of led down this career was the fact that I think. Interest in working on computers and programming and, and, uh, I found it really interesting to, to be able to manipulate a computer to code and develop these types of games as a, as a kid, you are the original game, or I guess, compared to the gamers of today, I wasn’t even close, but it certainly was interesting.


It kept my intention. And although I don’t know that I would call it necessarily a passion. Uh, I, you know, I spent hours on the computer playing with it, so it certainly was, was interesting. So as you’re playing, you’re gaming the 1980s, nineties version of gaming. And I did a little bit of that back then, too.


I think it was like a Nintendo 64 or something that I had. Okay, perfect. Or pong was the first one had back in the seventies, slightly older. So I started with pong. So as you’re doing this in high school, and you’re thinking about college. How did that translate into a college major for you? Which is, this is way before we had so many options in this field.


What did that look like? What were the options of which one did you pursue? Yeah, so back in the day we had probably two major options. You could either go into computer science, which has been around a very long time. Or you could do business information systems to the business college, which, you know, the two are very different.


One is this development and thinking architecturally and the other one is more, um, leveraging applications to support a business kind of a thing. And then there was kind of, uh, an up and comer major that was called computer engine. It was a spinoff of electrical engineering. And so I had the opportunity at Toledo to go to, I think they actually had a computer science and engineering.


So I ended up with my math science background, my interest in computers. I ended up in computer engine. It’s so funny that you said that about being a spinoff for electrical engineering. So when I’m interacting with students and their families on the career coaching, one of the exercises I take them through is to go to a college website and look at the course of study.


And I always say, if you pull up that electrical engineering course of study and you pull up that computer science and the computer engineering. Look for all of the ways that there are just amazing overlaps there because there’s a lot of shared traits. So I’m glad that you reinforce it. Maybe I know what I’m talking about there.


Yeah. Engineering, especially. So I have two boys and I’ve been looking a lot at the curriculums and not to get off tangent too much, but there’s certainly those types of core curriculums that existed a long time and electrical fits very well with what we’ve been doing in computer science. So you, you select that up and coming computer engineering major at that point as a college student.


So it sounds like you were at the university of Toledo, which has a good engineering school, for sure. Did you think like, okay, this is going to get me to this career over here, or were you just selecting the major and you were going to figure the career piece out? Yeah, I, I wish I could say that. I knew what career I was going to go into back then.


All I knew as I was going to go to college. And I was, I was on this computer engineering track. And to be honest, I didn’t have necessarily any preconceived notion of what that would look like. The closest I had was again, the, the development exercises I was doing at home little applications to play down in the basement, kind of a thing.


So the closest I would have is that. And as you’ll hear later, that didn’t really turn out that way for me and obviously ended up in cybersecurity, something a little bit different. So security probably wasn’t really a field back then. Yeah. Oh no, not at all. I mean, from a college perspective, The first types of things we would see in cyber security, we’re at a masters level.


And even then it was in the two thousands. So, you know, early two thousands into 2010. Now you’re starting to see a trickle down into the undergraduate degrees, but it was not even a topic of discussion about. Part of what I love about your story that you always are. So generously sharing with us is when we talk about career pivots, there’s this idea of families will say to me, well, how can a 16, 17 or 18 year old start to even begin to be able to figure this out?


And part of the problem is they have to number one, but I also know they can, through the over 3000 students, I’ve worked with. And one of the questions that come up with that is there are going to be these jobs out there that we don’t even know exist. And so I, what I really love as a nugget from your story, there’s a lot of them, but one of my favorites is the fact that cybersecurity as a field really doesn’t emerge until this century.


And yet here you are, even though you went to school in the nineties, You set a foundation that allowed you to pivot to something new. And that’s, I try to explain that a lot to families like we’re, we’re laying a foundation and yeah, we don’t, I mean, we don’t even know what will be next in it, but there’s this foundation that’s been laid.


That some people will not only be prepared to be able to like learn it and begin to do that, but they’ll also find passion around it. So let’s go back to what you started with career-wise, which I think you said ended up not so great for you. That first one. No, not, not in particular to be in computers.


The first thing I thought of was, was developing applications, right? Being an application developer, I would do those little things in the basement that would take a day to, to kind of put together and troubleshoot and fix. And it was kind of interesting. So that seemed to be the right way to go. Toledo happened to have is one of those co-op schools when it comes to engineering.


So thankfully I had some job experiences throughout college to just to really look at. Application development and decide is that really the field within it? That fit? And the reality was, even though I thought I shouldn’t say, I think I, I know I had the aptitude for it. I didn’t have the attitude for it.


Is that a thing I’d say that when we’re doing the career coaching through my program is pan do, does not equal should do. Oh, yeah. Yeah. I certainly, I knew that I could do the work. It just was not that interesting to me. And the dynamic of that type of a job sitting in front of a computer programming, long hours and troubleshooting, I kind of jokingly say they talk about the journey versus the destination.


I was all about the destination. I like playing the video games. I did not like the journey to build that video game when it takes that long, I guess. And so I kind of realized that wasn’t my purpose. If you will. It wasn’t something that, that I was good at. And it just didn’t, it didn’t fit my character, I guess.


And so if you, spring forward, I thankfully got my first opportunity out of school to come down to Cincinnati and work in a small startup company here in Cincinnati. I’d like to again, say it was because of my great grades and, and who I was and all my potential. That move really was because of professional networking.


So I had a buddy of mine that had that opportunity. He graduated six months before me and he pointed me out when they were looking for another hire. And so thankfully I had that connection to gum down here and to work down here as my first professional gig, we can never underestimate the power of networking.


Yeah, no completely agree. You, you had said something in one of your previous blog posts about get yourself in the room. And so that kind of, that resonated well with me, when it came to my first job down here, I had to get myself with proximity. Right. So just get your, even if you are like filing papers or running out and getting lunch, like seeing jobs and action and getting close to the people that are doing them.


Getting that proximity, just get in the room and that can start building that network. So you get to Cincinnati. What was that job? They had already had a bunch of experienced it, professionals on staff, which included my buddy, actually, he, he had a, quite a bit of work experience under his belt. They were looking for a, a Linux administrator to start up as part of their consulting practice.


And even though I didn’t have that background, they were willing to put me through the training to go through. We had a young kind of type a personality. I thought that I had the aptitude for it. This is going to be easy, but in the end, again, it wasn’t something that really caught my interest. If you will.


I certainly had the smarts to do it, but the, the work just wasn’t interesting to me describe what that work is for those who maybe are like, what Lennox, what is. Yeah. So, so system administration. So, so we moved from developing programs to maintaining computer systems that those programs. So adding users and changing passwords or adding storage to computers that can be used for these applications or making them run more efficiently, those kinds of things that are really traditional it type roles, things that happen under the covers to make your applications run well is kind of the role that I was trying to fit at the time, Lennox as opposed to Microsoft.


So this was, uh, a little bit of a niche area. If you will, back then. Amazingly became an important piece of my cybersecurity background, to be honest, because a lot of the tools are developed on Linux operating systems. So anyways, so I did that and realized I wasn’t really good at that, but the one thing it taught me going through that process was computer communications using TCP IP, which for those that don’t know, happens to be the communications protocol that is now used widely across.


And so that gave me something that I could springboard into network communications, network design, and building and maintaining something that I completely understood. And it became an exploding market from a, from a computer perspective back in the nineties, when the internet was really just kind of getting off the ground.


So you’re laying the foundation at that point, it sounds like, sounds like tools in your toolbox, figuring out what fits for you and what doesn’t and then a cybersecurity emerges. And how does Mike make his way to cyber security and what is tell us to like, I think we all know. And a general sense what cybersecurity is, but as someone who is in that field, give us a little bit more of a sense of on a daily basis.


What’s going on behind the scenes. Yes. I always say that that, that cyber security professionals look at technology, that kind of a different perspective, right? So, so we’re trying to protect or defend their computers from an applications and data from abuse, from misuse. So in our world, we’re, we’re leveraging tools and technologies to protect systems, to protect data, but also to look for, and detect suspicious activity and to go investigate that and take action if necessary.


It’s really looking at. Malicious use of technology, if you will, not the feature functions that you’re supposed to be using technology. And so it’s kind of exciting for, for those that are in that space. I suppose, with networking, we do a lot of things under the covers. We, we watch packets flow between computers and see how they’re communicating and troubleshoot down at that level.


Cybersecurity is very similar can build upon that. So you’re, you’re, you’re talking about expanding the tool set that I had available to me using my knowledge of networks and how computers communicate, allowed me to take that step and go, okay, well, that’s how they’re supposed to communicate. How would we identify something suspicious?


And so we pivot on that knowledge and expertise that we. Networks to then now go into cybersecurity. If that makes sense. That makes a lot of sense. I hope I got too technical. I actually, I think it helps bring it down to, obviously I am not super computer savvy. And so it brings it down to be understandable to me, like on that daily basis.


One of the questions I asked students if they come to me and they’re like, well, I’m thinking about possibly this career or this career I often start with, well, what do you know of that career that might be appealing to you? And I also say to them, I don’t expect at 16, 17, 18, even 19 years old, that you really fully maybe know what that is, but I want to hear what your understanding is because that understanding of it helps inform us.


How a person’s wired and what they might find satisfying. So for you to be able to connect the dots on somebody’s understanding of cyber security might be one thing, but in actuality, this is what it is. I also love the example of how, like the system networking. Was, I don’t know. When did that come around for a very long time before that, right?


Yes. Certainly certainly early nineties. Yeah. And this is the perfect example of no one and 19 92 93, whatever. Thought what cybersecurity is, or that we would have computers in our pockets as we walk around someday. And that, that, that could actually cyber attacks could be a real thing, but you’re still building a skillset that eventually informed you of like, huh, this could be a fit over here.


And I’ve got the skills. I got the tools in my toolbox to do that and learn the new things that it takes. And I feel like that’s always that answer. It’s a perfect example of our answer of, well, we don’t even know what jobs are going to exist by the time my student graduates or by the time my students 30, before we jumped on here, I said to you having gone to high school and college in the eighties, myself, I spent many years and still do some work as an independent educational consultant.


Nobody had independent educational consultants in the 1980s, but I developed a skillset of working in education and working with teens and young adults that equipped me to do that job is that job emerged. And now it’s a very regular term out there. So if you were talking to students, Who find themselves with an interest and a passion and computers.


What advice would you give to a high school student or even a college student who’s trying to discern this, that they, the work that they should be doing to figure out. Cybersecurity or one of these other areas that you mentioned, cause those other areas haven’t gone away, they’re still out there. Right?


They need people to, what would your recommendations be? What they should do now? And like how would they even know if they should go computer science, computer engineering, it cyber security, the million dollar question, right. To try to get as accurate of a picture before you enter college. I’m not sure. I thought kind of long and hard about this before jumping on the call.


I’m not sure that there’s a wrong path per se. There’s certainly new paths in, in the undergraduate programs. Right? We mentioned it. We mentioned now there’s cybersecurity programs. I know plenty of, of computer engineers or even electrical engineers and computer scientists that have come out of school that have gotten into this world, this realm of cybersecurity.


So I don’t know that that path necessarily dictates where you end up. I do think the different programs, when you look at the curriculum will help determine what makes most sense for you. So the engineering path, for instance, the computer science path, those have really high advanced math type of requirements.


Right. And if that drains the life Adia, then that’s probably not the path you should be choosing. It’s interesting that they can go a couple of different. One thing that I read an article on recently, and I reached out to try to, I wouldn’t, it would be dreamy to be able to interview somebody about this.


Some colleges are, there’s a group of colleges that are starting to move away from doing the typical calculus route of calc one, calc two differential equations. What comes next? I don’t know. I’m not a calculus girl, obviously. Right. State university here in Ohio is one of them also has a good engineering program and they’ve deconstructed it.


So you don’t just take calc one or calc two it’s like embedded throughout your other coursework. Because one of the things that they found was there are, and I feel like this fits with what you’re demonstrating here. There are lots of people who Hashan in purpose while. Would enjoy doing the work and would have a strong aptitude for doing the work.


But oftentimes those early calculus based a lot of calculus-based math courses start to weed them out in drain them. And it’s cutting off a pipeline of students who actually would be very well suited for these careers. So they’re rethinking how they do math within the, the computer engineering and computer science realm.


And I think that is fantastic. And you do see it with things like engineering technology, where it’s a little bit lighter math, but you’re still in the engineering program, but not doing as much of the abstract thinking, deeper thinking that the engineering programs have. And I think it is similar to that too.


It’s lighter. It still has math requirements, but it’s lighter on the math and focused much more on the practical skill sets that easily aligned with job requires. When you talk about the, like the lighter math, one of the things that you brought up. And I think a lot of people don’t know this, and I always teach this and my career coaching, there are really three different levels of engineering.


So we’ve got the top level of just it’s called engineering. It would be your degree and that’s going to be very heavy on the calculus base. Then that engineering technology that you just referenced and clearly know about. But I feel like as a hidden gem that many people don’t know about, so it’s going to be a little bit lighter.


You’re not going to get out of calc one and calc two. So let’s alert everybody to that, right? You can’t escape calc. But it’s going to be more practical, less theoretical, and the math is more digestible. And so it can be, it’s still a four-year degree. It’s definitely a sweet spot for a lot of students that I always encourage students to explore.


When they’re looking at anything in engineering, that’s a great one. What would you say? Like, there’s gotta be, we started out like our pre-conversation and everybody knows that we get on and talk ahead of time before we started our views and we were talking about how, like my husband’s on a job that as a history major in the 1980s, there’s no way he would get that job now.


And you gave a fantastic example that in the early nineties, You guys tell the story a little bit about, you would find these other majors and what did they do? Yeah. W with only a couple of different undergraduate paths you could even have taken and computers or technology of good portion of the networking and technologists we hired were biology majors or art majors and history majors, as you mentioned, but that the differentiator was the fact that.


Computers where their passion on the side they had to, they could prove that they self learned all this information about technology on their own, and that really shown through. So when you’re comparing people or resumes, that the thing that really came across was the fact that they did all these things on the side.


They, they, they proved their passion by, by showcasing. That they built a lab at home, or they develop these applications on their own, or they did this self study back then. That’s kind of how we would differentiate whether or not the person was, was good for us and our team spring forward. Now, with all these different college academic paths you have available to you, it starts to water that down.


It’s harder to identify those that truly have the passion and interest in computers versus those that are kind of going through the motions. Still trying to figure it out. And so you’ll find me if I had 10 resumes on my desk and they all look the same. I’m going to look for the gems, those hidden gems with people that are doing something outside the classroom.


And those are kind of the differentiators that we see, whether that’s it certifications or it’s they joined the cyber defense team down at the college and they competed against other teams. Those are the types of things that kind of make student resumes pop these days, because there’s so many that can list.


I have straight A’s and an it degree. And so those extracurriculars are the things that make the difference for me these days. If you had, there’s gotta be some high school students out there that maybe don’t have a passion for computers yet, or they’re not in gamer. I mean, it’s so common every time as a high school, young man particularly says, when I asked the question, what do you do with your free time?


Or what are your hobbies gaming? And like, okay, you’re going to every other teenage young man, which is not bad, but I, I sit here and I’m like, just like you knew in the nineties. So couple, three decades ago that there were people who. Loved biology or art, but also take this interest in computers. What’s maybe a high school student now that you’re like you maybe have never thought about a career in something related to computers, and maybe you should think about it.


Can you think about what your advice would be? I had a kind of a laundry list and of course I’m going to forget some of the more important bullets until we get off. But I would say, well, first and foremost, if you haven’t thought about computers yeah. Don’t cross it off the list. That’s the first thing you like, you can’t compare yourself to your peers and go, oh, he’s been in robotics since seventh grade and he’s so good at programming.


I’m so far behind. You have plenty of time to make that up. So, so the first things first don’t, don’t write it off just because you see peers that may be ahead of you because I do see that quite a bit where they think that’s too. We have medical research scientists. I have some project managers that later in life.


And when I say later, I mean, after kids moved into cybersecurity. So as a high school where you have plenty of time to make that up cybersecurity people. So I, there’s a, there’s probably a couple of things that make us different. We’re inquisitive. We like to dig deep into problem solving and kind of root cause for instance, and this is a little bit dated, but I work in at a large company.


There’s 10,000 people in the company. A computer gets infected, cyber security, realizes it, notifies desktop folk to come do something with the system. They show up, they just image the box. They give it back to the employee and then. Week later, same person, same box gets the same infection. Desktop person comes out, they read the box and they move on.


I sit there and go. Isn’t that interesting? How is it that out of 10,000 people, this one person gets the same problem two times in a row. Isn’t that interesting? Don’t you want to know why? And the desktop person, their job isn’t to do that? Their job is to get the box back online and working just like it is.


But as a cybersecurity person, we like puzzles. We like to dig underneath the covers and understand why we’re logical people. We’re analytical. We don’t like to give up too easily. And on trying to understand what’s causing things. I think we’re inquisitive. So you can’t be scared of technology, but you don’t have to necessarily be a technology eat.


If that makes any sense to you. That’s great. So I think you’ve done a great job. I mean, as a career coach, I obviously know about these areas. I know about the requirements or growth rates and how to become one. But you taught me a ton about each of these areas and you’re always so generous. So normally if I’m introducing somebody who maybe has a program to offer, I say, here’s how to reach out to them, but I’m going to say the best way for our launch community to reach out to you and connect is you are more than happy to engage inside our launch career clarity, Facebook group.


I know you’ve offered up. You said you didn’t get any takers the first time. But now you put yourself out there for this interview. You might have some families reach out and say, gosh, we would love to talk to you a little bit more about this and gain their insights. So Mike shooter, thank you so much for your time today.


Thanks for having me. And, and again, like you said, I’d be more than happy to talk to others that are considering a career or wanted to investigate it further, right?


such great insight from Mike, not only for careers and computers, but simply the journey of discovering fit in today’s show notes. We have helpful links to all the resources mentioned in this episode, including a career profile for cyber security and how to connect with Mike inside the launch college and career clarity, Facebook parent group.


If this field might be of interest to your. I encourage you to sit down with your team by the end of this weekend, to look at the career profile, check out a college curriculum that would prepare your student to work in the field and discuss the extracurriculars micro recommends in which might be fun and insightful for your team to pursue.


If today’s episode was helpful to you, please share with a friend who needs this to sharing, following the podcast rating. Helps us resource more students to launch into a successful future. Thank you for listening to the college and career clarity podcast, where I help your family move from overwhelmed and confused to motivated, clear and competent about your team’s future.