Stefani Johnson, Data Manager at the University of Advancing Technology, has just started working on two master's degrees, one in Technology Leadership and one in Cybersecurity. We asked her to share her experiences as a student, why she chose to pursue an advanced cyber degree, and her advice for future tech students.
What is your background? What do you do now as an employee here?
Although I found a passion for cybersecurity, my background includes mostly administrative work and data management. Currently, I have been working for the University of Advancing Technology (UAT) for around 5.5 years. My main key performance indicators (KPIs) include data integrity, Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) admin, and process documentation and improvement. I am fortunate enough to have the ability to relate everything that I am learning in my cybersecurity courses directly into my current position!
You can view my LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/stefani-johnson-5091b3133/.
Why did you choose to attend UAT? Why did you choose to continue your education through the cyber master’s program?
Once you step foot upon the UAT campus, you immediately feel the excitement and comfortability that UAT provides. UAT has been more than just a career or university for me, they have been a family. The faculty team provides me the tight-knit, mentorship, and project-focused education that I thrive in. I learn best visually and by actually getting my hands on the tech, project, process, whatever it is. In fact, within just the first few weeks of the UAT cybersecurity program, I had created an entire factitious information technology (IT) department with mission, value, and goals for certain time periods. The IT department included an organizational chart with roles and responsibilities, cyber laws relating to the industry, basic Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery, and Incident Response plans, as well as in-depth security structure. I even had laid out an entire interview process including questions, qualifications, industry-respected certifications and more. Keep in mind, I had no more than 2 prior cyber courses in my undergraduate, nor much exposure to any of this before. I could not imagine attending another university that could provide me not just the information but the comprehension and real-life skills I am learning now on a daily basis.
What advice do you have for potential tech students?
The advice I wish I had, or better yet, had listened to is to push past your fear and preconceived limitations. My educational journey has not been typical. I graduated high school early, did not start my undergraduate program in UAT’s Business Technology program until 7 years later, and then the graduate program at almost 30 years old. I was initially afraid of returning back to school after many years, and within a year of my undergraduate program, I felt completely invigorated with the passion and drive as I saw my skills as a student, employee, and technical worker skyrocket. If I would have given in to my fear of returning to school after so long, I would not be where I am today, and my journey is nowhere near completion.
After receiving my Bachelor’s, I was determined to continue my educational journey at UAT. However, the choices weighed heavy on my heart. Do I continue in the familiar path of Technology Leadership or venture out and face my fear of something completely foreign? Could I even succeed on a new path with limited knowledge? After much consideration, I decided to do both! I decided to be ambitious and work towards obtaining two master's, one in Technology Leadership and one in Cybersecurity, in under a year and a half. Since the courses at UAT are billed per semester, or per module, there is no reason to not double the efforts. Knowing what I do now, I am confident in my decision. Thanks to the support I have among my faculty, coworkers, and family, I was able to push past my preconceived notions of what was obtainable.
Stefani Johnson with her father, Steve.
What are your plans for the future?
Not so long ago, I was fearful of the thought of trying something unfamiliar, and now my career ambitions have completely changed. Since beginning the Cybersecurity program, I have spent over 10 hours per week doing extracurricular research, just to learn as much as I can. I plan on taking everything that I am learning and directly applying it to my current position as I move more to the IT path. I plan to use both my Cybersecurity and Technology Master’s Degrees towards a managerial position within IT in the future.
What advice do you have for current students?
Instead of writing a Graduate thesis at UAT, we are required to complete a portfolio and G-SIP, aka Graduate Student Innovation Project, before completion. Each final you do in one of your major-specific courses directly relates to one or more of the pre-determined portfolio objectives. If you attend UAT, it helps to be focused on these from day one. Employers will want to see that you one – have a respected degree in your industry, two – have the expertise to succeed, and three – have the passion and determination for your craft. Focus on the projects you are incredibly proud of and spend extra time fine-tuning it as portfolio pieces. Upon graduation, you will have a a professional, meaningful portfolio to present to potential employers.
What’s the most important thing you’d like to share about cyber month?
It is important to be cognizant of our perception of cybersecurity. The word hacker has such a derogatory stereotype. Yes, there are malicious attackers that are stealing and selling information and holding companies hostage to ransomware. There are also hackers working diligently to protect our information, data-privacy, even our economy. One of my first assignments was to watch and analyze The History of Hacking. I highly recommend watching this short documentary that provides prospective on how hacking originated with phones to Wozniak creating the personal computer to the implementation of cyberlaws.
Watch from YouTube now:
UAT’s cyber security degree programs and cyber security lab are recognized by industry and government entities alike for their ability to help generate the future innovators of the cyber security industry. We focus on creating true leaders who will have mastery in ethical hacking and uphold the highest industry standard of integrity in our quickly evolving world of cyber security tech and online security.
Leading cyber security education in the southwest, University of Advancing Technology (UAT) is marking 15 successful years since the inception of its elite Network Security degree program. As one of the longest-running cyber security degrees in the southwest, our complete continuum of undergraduate and graduate cyber security degrees have helped prepare more graduates with a NSA and CAE-credentialed education than any other university’s cyber security program in the southwest.
Our prestigious cyber security degrees include the undergraduate Network Security, Network Engineering, and Technology Forensics, and the elite Graduate degree in Information Assurance transporting graduates to the leading edge of industry.
Written by Lisha Dunlap
Sr. PR Assoc., Media & Influencer Relations at University of Advancing Technology