From IT to Cybersecurity: Inside Mike Watson’s Career Pivot

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Mike Watson had been working in IT for several years when he decided it was time to expand his skill set.

Curious to learn about the booming world of cybersecurity, he started researching different educational courses. “I’d been out of school for a while, so relearning was a big priority,” he said.

Before long, he stumbled upon Columbia Engineering Cybersecurity Boot Camp, a 24-week online course designed to prepare learners for promising careers in cybersecurity. Eager to see where the course could take him, Mike enrolled immediately.

Making the most of the boot camp

Looking back, Mike can confidently say that the cybersecurity boot camp was as rewarding as it was intensive. “It requires you to focus intently and dedicate a lot of personal time outside of class,” he said. “I remember getting home from work, having class, and then participating in a study group for a few hours. I missed out on a lot of social events and some vacation time, but it was worth it.”

One of the aspects of the course that Mike found most helpful was his supportive community of peers. “When it’s a virtual course, you expect that you’re going to be alone,” he said. “But thanks to the study groups, you’re not at all. We had regular group Zoom calls, which were really helpful.”

Whenever Mike was struggling with a cybersecurity concept, he knew that he could count on his study group for guidance. “A lot of people didn’t lean on their study group,” he recalled, “but for the few of us that did, it helped us excel.”

Applying a new skill set

Fortunately for Mike, all his hard work in the boot camp paid off. After completing the course in August 2021, he landed a new job as an IT support specialist at the software company Databricks.

Using lessons learned in the boot camp, Mike has helped his IT team understand more about data breaches, permissions, and other important aspects of cyber defense. “I’ve enjoyed being able to share my knowledge,” he said.

Looking ahead, he hopes to transfer to Databricks’s cybersecurity enterprise team in the near future. Mike recently had his first meeting about making the pivot, and his employers have also offered to pay for the cost of his cybersecurity certification exams.

Passing along advice for learners

While there were a few moments during the boot camp when Mike felt like he had hit a wall, his dedication always helped him push through. “You really have to want to pass the course,” he said. “You have to be committed. You have to be prepared to put in work after hours.”

Going forward, Mike aims to continue sharpening his tech skills. “I’ve gotten into a lot of coding lately and have been doing a lot of automation,” he said. Mike also enjoys reading, cycling, and traveling. “I’ve been to six countries this year, and working remotely helps with that,” he said. “Databricks has offices all over the world, and I’d like to find a reason to visit each one.”

Want to expand your own professional skill set? Check out Columbia Engineering Boot Camps today.

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