Cybersecurity may seem like an intimidating and overwhelming concept for people who do not know much about technology and information security, but others live for the challenge of deciphering the unknown and protecting the vulnerable. And that challenge excites and motivates UAT alumna and risk and compliance manager Terra Cooke.
Terra Cooke graduated from the University of Advancing Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Network Security in 2010 and has been working in the information security field ever since. She has worked for the United States Department of Defense, Ernst & Young and Limeade, and she regularly contributes to Black Hat and DEF CON. She is passionate about security governance, risk, and compliance and geeks out about internal control assurance processes and procedures.
Terra prides herself on her work ethic and commitment to life-long learning. She is currently working toward her CISSP certification and learning Python. Currently, she works as the risk and compliance manager at a well-being and engagement company based in Washington, where she spends her days developing systems to “drive security, privacy and compliance efforts throughout operations.”
In Terra’s free time, she powerlifts, cooks for her cat and boyfriend and sleeps. Terra recently competed in her first powerlifting competition and placed first in her weight class!
Terra’s time at UAT prepared her for a successful career in cybersecurity. She said that her educational experience helped her to “bridge gaps between technical and non-technical folks,” which is a big part of her job. Classes such as Identity Access Management and Legal Issues in Technology inspired her and helped her figure out what she wanted out of her career.
Terra also learned a lot about adulting.
“I learned that it’s okay to fail and you will fail. It’s fine. Don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s what you do AFTER you fail that really shows who you are.”
Job searches can feel nerve wracking. “Do not get discouraged,” Terra advises. When entering an interview, she said the most important thing is to be yourself and act natural, so the hiring team knows “what they see is what they will get as an employee.” She recommends taking care of yourself and making thoughtful decisions when you’re job hunting “because you’re the only person you have to answer to when you close your eyes at night.”
She also advises info sec professionals to keep evolving and moving forward. “Compliance is not a static world, and it takes a dynamic spirit to keep all the wheels turning and build the bridges between the engineers and the business or external parties,” which is exactly why Terra loves her career.
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