From Sales to Cybersecurity: Shaun Parmassar’s Career Pivot

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Shaun Parmassar used to think you had to be a tech prodigy to work in cybersecurity. Now, he’s a cybersecurity solutions architect and engineer. 

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Shaun embarked on a career in sales for several years. Eventually, he switched to a job in cybersecurity. This new role was still mainly on the business side of things, but Shaun found himself increasingly curious about the field as a whole. “For the first time in eight years, I was actually very interested in something that I was doing,” he said, “so I wanted to know more about it.”

A few years back, a friend had completed Columbia Engineering Cybersecurity Boot Camp and had a lot of positive things to say about it. Shaun had thought about giving the boot camp a try when he had more time, but couldn’t work it into his existing schedule due to traveling for work and spending about a week each month away from home. However, when the pandemic hit and social distancing became the norm, Shaun finally found himself with time on his hands. “I decided to just sign up and go for it,” he shared. “Worst case scenario, I would learn something new. Best case scenario, I’d also make a successful career pivot.” 

A new interest

In cybersecurity, the term “Red Team” refers to individuals who are emulating a potential hacker or competitor. The team looks for loopholes in a company’s cybersecurity practices and provides feedback on what can be improved. Shaun discovered a special interest in Red Team work through a project in the boot camp.

Before his boot camp experience, Shaun believed it was too late for him to break into the ethical hacking end of cybersecurity. “I thought you needed to be born with the right skills, or you needed to be five-years-old on a computer hacking the FBI,” he explained. “That was my mentality, coming from a business background.”

For their midterm project, learners were tasked with using Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing service, to set up and run a virtual machine (VM). VMs are virtual versions of computers that reside inside host computers and do not have a physical form. They’re an essential component of cybersecurity, often used to detect malware on host computers.

After setup, Shaun and his classmates operated as a Red Team. “We started different attacks to see, ‘What is getting into the computer? What are we picking up on? And, are we mitigating risk against that?’” It was a welcome challenge that required strong collaboration between Shaun and his group members. The experience brought them together, and the group still keeps in contact through messages and occasional meetups to this day.

This was Shaun’s first time working with cloud solutions software and reading red flags to pick up on potential security threats — but it certainly wouldn’t be his last. Shaun’s current job requires him to use similar skills, and the programs he worked with in the boot camp were a huge resume boost.

Landing a new role

Shaun continued to work full-time while completing the boot camp. The remote nature of the course, as well as the fact that class hours are geared toward working people, were major selling points that attracted him to the boot camp in the first place. Still, he wasn’t entirely sure what to expect career-wise after the course ended.

“Going in, my mentality was: let me see what this is about. Let me learn something new. And then, maybe I’ll advance my career in my current company,” said Shaun. “Little did I know that I would end up choosing a whole different company altogether. I’m still in the cybersecurity field, but moving in a very different direction.”

While the job hunt was challenging, Shaun’s Career Services counselor was a constant source of support. She talked him through interview anxieties and gave tips along the way. At one point, she suggested that Shaun get more specific in his search and seek out jobs asking directly for the skills he hoped to use. This led to Shaun working with a recruiter and focusing on opportunities that best suited his interests. Eventually, Shaun landed his current role: a cybersecurity solutions architect/engineer at Pentera.

Moving forward, Shaun hopes to continue leveling up in his career by obtaining more advanced certifications. He’s on track to earn his CompTIA Security+ certification and hopes to earn his ethical hacker certification (CEH) soon. Someday, he’d like to become a bug bounty hunter, helping companies identify vulnerabilities in their security systems. “Completing the boot camp helped me achieve a huge life pivot,” said Shaun.

Want to learn more about ethical hacking or other exciting topics? Check out Columbia Engineering Boot Camps today.

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