Alumna Spotlight: My Journey To Cybersecurity

March 2019 | Evolve Security Academy Alumni Spotlight with Maria Christina Padilla

Maria Christina Padilla is a dynamic IT cybersecurity professional with 10+ years of information technology and full stack web development experience. A recent graduate of Evolve Security Academy, Christine was hired by Rapid7 after graduation for her demonstrated knowledge of security tools and practices, vulnerability testing, compliance, risk management, and overall IT experience. She also dedicates her time toward the empowerment of others by teaching and mentoring.

Tell me about your professional background.

I began my career as a web developer, user experience, and graphic designer.  After a few years, I advanced toward project management and team lead roles, which had me overseeing enterprise level technical implementations.  As my technical career was growing, so was my entertainment career as a professional electronic music producer, DJ and spiritual teacher touring across the nation.  It was my love for technology that fueled my professional endeavors.

Recently, I decided to go back to school to focus upon cybersecurity and information assurance.  To help make this a reality, I worked part-time as a front-end web development instructor preparing and inspiring disenfranchised, low-income and underemployed women towards obtaining employment in the technology sector. I also taught the cohort meditation to serve as an anchor they can use for navigating both internal and external challenges that arose with their transition.

What made you decide to pursue cybersecurity as a career?

It was a natural evolution for me based on my background.  It seemed exciting and was one of the most emergent of technical careers.  Cybercrime is the newest threat to all individuals and corporations.  People need to be educated and guided with how to go about protecting themselves and their organizations.

What made you decide to enroll at Evolve Security Academy? Why was this program the right choice for you?

I did my research and looked into the varied cybersecurity programs available nationally. The list of options ranged from onsite and remote universities and boot camps. My goal was to find the best option for me while taking cost, curriculum details, delivery format, reviews, and overall ranking into thoughtful consideration.

I was impressed with Evolve Security Academy from go!  The program was affordable, offered on-site and remote enrollment, and had industry professionals teaching the cohorts.  The curriculum offered real, hands-on apprenticeship experience making the journey a practical one rather than solely academic.  

I applied and to my delight, I was offered a partial scholarship due to my technical background and experience.  

Where are you working now? What is your day-to-day role like?

Today I work as a Technical Support Engineer for global leader in cybersecurity, Rapid7.   A dream come true!  I was hired one month after graduating from Evolve Security Academy. 

My day to day role is centered upon applying my technical expertise and knowledge to help solve application, network and information technology issues that arise for a wide range of individuals and companies that use Rapid7 suite of products.  

How did Evolve Security Academy prepare you for a career in the cybersecurity industry?

Everything Evolve Security Academy taught me is in use today.  If it was not for their curriculum, the instructors, my peers in the cohort, and my dedicated hours of hard work to master what was offered - I probably would not have been offered the position.  

New research from Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that women will represent more than 20 percent of the global cybersecurity workforce by the end of 2019 (https://cybersecurityventures.com/women-in-cybersecurity/). Have you faced challenges as a woman in cybersecurity? What challenges are facing women today?

I can't say that I have experienced challenges working in cybersecurity as I work for one of the coolest and advanced companies around.  As the only female on a team of twenty, I have been welcomed, accepted, and treated equally.  I work with a diverse team of highly skilled and talented individuals making a difference in cybersecurity.  I am honored to say I am part of that!

In my past, however, I have worked for the wrong company and with the wrong people who, unfortunately, marginalized women.  It was prejudicial and shocking. That experience made me a stronger, wiser and a more compassionate person.  I now consciously choose to surround myself with people who are self-actualized in character and lead with inspiration rather than suppression.  It is my belief that if I bring my personal best every day, work smart, and maintain integrity and mad skills with everything I do, then I can't help but to succeed.

Not every company is like the one in my past. The IT workforce is changing.  Companies are embracing a diverse workforce as it is not only good for business but also reflective of our cultural and societal requisite.

I learned quite a bit about the challenges facing women not only in my own past but also during my time teaching and preparing women for careers in IT.  The theme I noted was women often face the challenge of believing in themselves and letting go of belief systems that say, "You can't! You are not allowed!"  Whether it was something, someone, somewhere tried to convince us of, or a mantra repeating one's own head - the pattern was evident.  

Reclaiming ourselves to live our destiny (which for some of us is cybersecurity) starts with getting in touch with our own spirit and heart, and with knowing that we are intelligent, beautiful, strong women that can manifest anything we devote ourselves toward.

In your opinion, why do you believe that women should join the cybersecurity industry?

Because cybersecurity needs you!  There is such a large gap and a need for capable individuals.  Companies need you to help protect our information, our infrastructures, and our digital economy.  

A cybersecurity career that awaits you is exciting, fun, fulfilling and purposeful.  

What advice do you have for women who are interested in making a career change into cybersecurity?

Don't be intimidated and take chances.  Embrace learning.  Learn about networking and Linux commands to get started.  Find a mentor.  Put yourself out there and let people meet your shiny, beautiful face! Step by step, the doors open.

Evolve Security Academy offers online, live instructor led, cybersecurity training. Take the next step in your career by enrolling in the upcoming cohort. Have questions about a career in cybersecurity? Contact info@evolveacademy.io.

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