Tiffany Garraton never thought she would be interested in cybersecurity. “I started off as a business and finance major when I was in undergrad, then worked in New York and went to law school afterwards,” she shared. “I did criminal prosecutions and transitioned to immigration law, working for the Department of Homeland Security.”
Tiffany had a private practice for a while, then moved to the Netherlands where she focused on raising her two children. While living abroad, she took Russian language courses and took classes that piqued her interest in open-source investigation, social engineering, and cybersecurity and privacy laws. “When I moved back to Houston, I was looking for something completely different,” she said. That’s when she fell into cybersecurity and discovered Rice University Cybersecurity Boot Camp.
Tiffany is currently working with Lewis Brisbois, a Houston-based law firm that employs 70+ attorneys focused on data privacy, incident response, and cybersecurity. “If a company experiences a data security incident like a ransomware attack, we navigate and assist companies through a forensics investigation of their environment, but ensuring compliance with complex consumer notification and regulatory obligations,” she explained. “Cybersecurity is such a big area, and this is just one niche.”
Committing to a competitive edge
Tiffany pursued the cybersecurity boot camp to give herself an edge in interviewing for her current position — and to get that competitive advantage, she committed to learning the tools of the trade. “The boot camp met three times a week for about four hours each time, so every day I was reading up, studying, or looking at external resources to better understand these skills,” she shared.
The boot camp required Tiffany to commit her time and passion to being intellectually curious as she sought to understand new skills and tools. Looking back, Tiffany is especially grateful for the program’s digital forensics module. “That plays a big part in what I do now,” she shared. “We deal with clients who are affected by security breaches.”
Tiffany’s newfound knowledge of cybersecurity terminology and tools has been a major asset in her current job. “I’m able to know what digital forensic firms are discussing,” she said. “The boot camp provided a really good overview of the whole cybersecurity landscape, and the different paths within the field. It was helpful to gain that broad perspective.”
Finding a network
After Tiffany completed the boot camp, she interviewed at Lewis Brisbois, where her newfound skill set was one of the main talking points during the recruitment process. She had learned about the job through networking at one of the boot camp webinars, provided through the program’s Career Services team. “I would say the most wonderful part of the boot camp was networking,” said Tiffany. “That network you build was one of my biggest and best takeaways.”
Tiffany also met people in her cohort who she still keeps in touch with. “In the boot camp, you meet people from all different life experiences, and that gives you a really good sense of who you’ll work with in the real world,” she shared. “We had people from all walks of life in our cohort. Someone was right out of high school, while another person was working in oil and gas. Everyone brought something they excelled in to the team, and it really was a big part of the learning process.”
Today, Tiffany says that all of her boot camp classmates still communicate as part of a Slack group. “A lot of us are studying for the CompTIA Security+ certification exam, and we keep in touch online. We’re all very close,” she shared.
What’s next for Tiffany
Tiffany is a few months into her new job, where she’s focusing on incident response, privacy by design, and advising clients on how best to secure their environment. “I really love learning. This is a great area for that. Ultimately, my greatest interest today is in Artificial Intelligence, cloud security, and seeing how the cybersecurity and privacy laws evolve through all this new progress in technology,” she said. “Constant learning. That’s my goal at this point.”
Tiffany’s advice for anyone interested in cybersecurity is to do their research. “It takes a lot of time and effort, so make sure that you determine what aspect of cybersecurity you’re really interested in,” she emphasized. “Then reach out to other individuals who are in the industry and start networking.”
Tiffany’s hope for the future of cybersecurity is that more women will get into this field. “Of the whole cohort, there were only two women and a lot of men,” she recalled. “We need many more women to get involved in this field, so now I’m really interested in promoting the boot camp to other women who might be interested.”