Before enrolling in Vanderbilt Cybersecurity Boot Camp, Bianca Hodges acquired a wealth of experience in the mental health field. After earning a Master’s degree in clinical psychology, she worked as a quality assurance and utilization review specialist at several residential facilities in Nashville, Tennessee.
Over time, Bianca became curious about emerging technology within the mental health field. She observed the expanding role of electronic health records in her workplace — and grew concerned about the lack of security training around them.
“We were moving files and patient records to electronic medical records and it bothered me that people weren’t aware of the consequences of not being knowledgeable of the dangers online,” said Bianca.
Bianca understood that the health field was becoming more entwined with technology — and she was eager to learn more. Vanderbilt Cybersecurity Boot Camp seemed like the perfect place to expand her knowledge.
Juggling work, family, and boot camp
Attending boot camp while working full-time and raising a family was no easy feat. But after many long days and nights, Bianca leveraged her boot camp experience to transition out of the clinical side of health care and into the technological side. She accepted a role as a provider relations specialist at CareBridge, a startup that helps patients receiving long-term care by linking the patient, their family, and their caretaker through technology, 24 hours a day.
However, this achievement came with its fair share of obstacles — especially after the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed Bianca’s routine by bringing the boot camp online.
At times, Bianca was overwhelmed with trying to finish coursework, attend remote classes, and care for her children and husband — all from home. She was also one of just three women in her class, and the only Black woman, making her doubt whether this was the best path for her. Luckily, her instructor helped her realize that completing the boot camp was well within her reach.
“I think what really kept me motivated was my instructor,” said Bianca. “I was able to be honest with him and the TAs about getting into the field and being uncertain if this was for me. Another motivating factor was my husband. He saw the potential and had no doubt that I would succeed.”
Instead of throwing in the towel, Bianca buckled down and got to work, finishing her assignments late at night after her family went to bed. It took a lot of determination — but as a former ballerina with 16 years of dancing experience, she was used to an intense, fast-paced learning environment.
“I related boot camp to my ballet days,” said Bianca. “You’re learning four or five different dances and having to perform them at the end of the dance camp.”
The result? More confidence
Bianca credits the instructors with giving her a boost in self-assurance. They took notice of how hard she worked, recognized the skills she had already, and helped her acquire more.
“They gave me more confidence,” said Bianca. “I was at a point where I felt like I couldn’t move up anywhere, and I just needed to get into an area where I wouldn’t be judged. And they just kept saying, we need people like you.”
Now, at CareBridge, Bianca combines her boot camp experience of navigating different security systems with her clinical experience (like working with insurance companies) to support the platform’s users. In time, she plans to move into an IT role within the company, taking on data analysis and command-line interface responsibilities.
Bianca is excited to find more ways to bridge her two skill sets — and views continuing her education as a crucial component of that goal. Currently, she is working toward her Security+ certificate at Vanderbilt and plans to become a certified information systems auditor. She has her sights set on a doctoral degree, too.
“I just want to take this to the top,” said Bianca. “I want to keep growing, I want to keep learning, and I want to help other people, as well — especially people like me.”
As for other students considering enrolling in a boot camp or about to start classes, Bianca wants them to know that graduating is well within their reach if they’re open-minded and ready to be challenged. Although more intense than a typical college class, the boot camp’s instructors, TAs, and career services counselors are with you every step of the way.
“The help is there, the teachers are great, and it seems like everyone just wants you to succeed,” said Bianca. “I really loved my experience at the boot camp. I worked really hard and I’m proud of myself for accomplishing this.”
Interested to see what you can accomplish? Explore the Vanderbilt University Boot Camps offered in Coding, Data Analytics, Cybersecurity, and Digital Marketing.