Making a Cyber Security Career Change: Alumna Neana Del Rio Shares Her Story

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By William Phillips, PhD, DeVry University Dean of the Colleges of Engineering & Information Sciences and Media Arts & Technology

May 20, 2022
3 min read

As a Dean here at DeVry University, I can honestly say that our students are the number one reason why I do what I do. Seeing a student succeed in their education and pursue their career goals is the ultimate reward for an educator – especially when you see how much commitment and perseverance they put into achieving their dreams.

Neana Del Rio is a student that embodies all the essential characteristics of a cyber security professional – despite not actually starting her career in the field. In fact, she spent the first 15 years of her career working in criminal justice, most recently as a Probation Officer with Cobb County State Court in Georgia. Today, she is a Cyber Security Analyst with Deloitte. That’s quite the career shift.

Neana is a graduate of our Master’s Degree in Information Systems Management program here at DeVry, with a specialization in Information Security. I took some time recently to connect with her and learn more about her experience as well as her process in deciding to pursue a cyber security career. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights of Neana’s journey and how she defined her new path.

 

Q: Neana, how did you become interested in a career in cyber security? What made it the right path for you?

A: One of the reasons I became interested in cyber security is because of the trend in emerging technologies and how they can impact minority communities. I wanted to learn more about how technology can affect diverse communities and the impact of tools such as facial recognition, machine learning and artificial intelligence. I wanted to be involved and have a voice on how those technologies are implemented.

Also, like a lot of people, I’ve personally experienced having the technology I use be compromised by hackers. I wanted to demystify and better understand how that happens and what can be done to prevent it. I’m inherently curious, and as I researched and explored how cyber hacks happen, it led me to become interested in information security as a career.

Finally, it’s important to me to build generational wealth. I was the first person in my family to earn a college degree, and I wanted to have a career where I didn’t have to live paycheck to paycheck. I wanted a career that would provide an income that would go beyond day-to-day living and build wealth. I believe I’ve found that with cyber security.

Q: What qualities or existing skillsets helped prepare you for a career in cyber security?

A: My determination is a huge part of my success. I always set goals and plans. I dream big and am determined to bring those dreams to reality. I take one step at a time – and I don’t quit. That has been hugely helpful in pursuing a career in cyber security.

At my last job, I was the person to go to for help with Excel or other office software. I’ve always been the person with the resolve to figure out how technology works. I’m not afraid or intimidated by technology. That has clearly helped in my quest to switch careers. You have to have a curious, I-can-do-it mindset.

Q: What would you tell others who feel cyber security is not a career for them because they don’t have a background in IT?

A: Like many people, I initially thought I had to be this technology guru to have a career in cyber security, but honestly you don’t. You can learn what you need to know. You just have to be curious and have a desire to learn new things.

It’s important to have a champion or support team along the way, whether they work in IT not. Find your tribe and lean on them for support and encouragement. It takes time to start a cyber security career. It takes training. It takes the right education. But it can be done if you put your mind to it and you have the desire.

Find the Right Career Path for You

Connecting with Neana is a great reminder that regardless of where you begin your career, there’s no telling where your skills and interests may lead you. If you’re considering a career change and have an interest in evolving technologies, I encourage you to explore whether a career in cyber security is right for you.

Prepare for a Cyber Security Career at DeVry

Want to learn more about cyber security, as well as job opportunities you can pursue with a degree in this dynamic field? Explore our cyber security degree and certificate programs. Classes start every 8 weeks and can be completed 100% online, giving you the flexibility to launch your career on your schedule.

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