Category Archives: Cybersecurity

Student To Workforce Spotlight: Fandrea Tinsley

Fandrea Tinsley is a NOVA graduate who has been hired by Wal-Mart Cyber at a recruitment event after completing a NOVA IET resume and interview prep session. We thought we’d ask her a few questions and get some insights about her new career and how NOVA helped along the way.

1) Why is Cybersecurity important?

In the technology age that we live within, cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important because so many things connect to the internet (almost everything). Any device that connects to the internet can potentially be hacked! Since so many people use the internet daily the threat landscape is vast. This being the case, cybersecurity is not only important in our society but necessary.

2) What got you into Cybersecurity?

My husband, Farod! He is a NOVA alumnus and completed the same cybersecurity program in 2018. After which, he transferred to George Washington University (GWU) to complete his bachelor’s degree. I was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after conceiving our second son in 2019. While going through chemotherapy treatment, following our son’s birth, Farod recommended that I switch to cyber from the nursing program in which I’d previously been enrolled at Germanna Community College. I took a while to think about it but ultimately decided to take the leap due to me being at high risk during the height of Covid-19. Looking back, I can say that it has turned out to be one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made… thanks Farod!

3) What was your general experience at NOVA?

My general experience at NOVA was great! I’d taken some classes at NOVA when I was younger, directly after high school, but did not finish a degree program. As a returning student, I feel that I was better able to fully understand the importance of what NOVA has to offer and take advantage of this time around.

4) What did you enjoy most about your time at NOVA?

Everything! I enjoyed every class, every lab, every Saturday meeting with the AllCyber club, and forming relationships with classmates. All my professors were exceptional, and I appreciate EVERYTHING that they did to prepare me for the cybersecurity industry. They mentored and advised me until the very end and are one of the main reasons why I received this opportunity with Walmart Infosec.

5) How did NOVA IET help you get started along your career path?

NOVA IET provided me with all the knowledge, tools, and guidance to be successful in the cybersecurity industry. I continuously review everything that I have learned, in my mind, and apply this knowledge to every professional situation that I encounter. I feel that NOVA IET has really prepared me well and positioned me on the path to have a successful career.

6) What was your experience with the NOVA IET team, particularly with Dean Paula Ford?

My experience with the NOVA IET team was one of consistency and support. Throughout my entire experience, I received the same level of follow up, support, mentorship, and career counseling. Dean Paula Ford was an instrumental part of my NOVA IET team through her avocation for me and thoughtful leadership. Professor Kwabena Konodu followed up with me on a weekly basis to provide counseling and to ensure that my plan remained on track. A major part of my success so far is due to my NOVA IET team, and I really appreciate all of them.

7) What skills did you pick up from the mock interview, and how did it prepare you effectively for the real thing with Wal-Mart?

The mock interview helped to prepare me for the real thing by allowing me to “practice before the game”. I’ve been in other interviews over the years, but this was my first time preparing for a cybersecurity interview. The mock interview reinforced my confidence, bearing, and taught me how to structure my answers appropriately. This practice helped me a great deal to be prepared for the real thing, and I know that I would not have felt as confident as I did during my interview with Walmart Infosec, if I hadn’t participated in the mock interview.

8) Describe your confidence going into the interview, your mindset.

I would describe myself as a naturally confident person, and due to me having participated in the mock interview and all the preparation and support that I received from my NOVA IET team, I felt extra confident. I visualized myself already having the job before I even sat down for the interview.

9) Describe the full interview process with Wal-mart. What went well in the interview and what might you do differently?

As much as I tried not to look nervous during my interview, I am sure that I did. However, I’ve been told that I did well. Part of my interview consisted of my interviewer asking about me, my background, my skill set(s) and ambitions. I pride myself on my soft skills and communication, so I think that this part of the interview went very well. The other part of the interview was technical. Prepared as I was, I knew that I didn’t answer every question correctly. However, anything that I wasn’t totally familiar with, or unsure of, I confidently responded that I knew where to find the information and that I am always willing to learn more. I really think that the interviewer liked that.

10) How did your resume help you? Why was it effective? How did your employer refer to it to ask you questions?

My resume was effective in that it helped to get me in the door. My interviewer referenced my resume when asking me questions, for which I was prepared, and questions that weren’t related to my resume as well. Overall, I consider the process a valuable learning experience.

11) What do you do at Wal-mart on a day-to-day basis (that you can comfortably share) and what do you enjoy most about it?

Well, since I just recently began my Walmart Infosec journey, I am still in the research/study phase. My Walmart Infosec team has shown me a warm welcome and I am so excited to be a part of this organization. I look forward to getting to know my teammates better as we work closely alongside each other.

12) How did NOVA prepare you to meet the technical demands of your job?

The cybersecurity program at NOVA is top of the line. Through classroom lectures and work that covers every domain within IT and cybersecurity, rigorous and realistic lab assignments, the AllCyber professional cybersecurity organization, and continuous career coaching and mentorship I feel very prepared to meet professional technical demands. Regarding my job, I have a foundational understanding of all the information that I have been presented with so far, which is an advantage to me.

13) How do soft skills and interpersonal communication play into the interview process and in your job from day to day?

Soft skills and communication skills play a huge part during an interview and on the job. To truly be a team player these skills should be almost second nature. Honestly, I believe that I’ve made it this far relying largely on my soft skills and communication. As I continue to increase my technical prowess, my interpersonal skills enable me to continuously communicate with others, identify needs, and remain an asset.

14) How does your life in the professional world differ from life as a NOVA student? What are the expectations?

Well, prior to entering tech I’d accumulated years of professional work experience in the healthcare industry. Having such experience over the years has fine tuned my work ethic and drive. So, I applied that same work ethic and drive to my studies, and I continue to do so in the professional tech world in hopes that it will continue to serve me well. One difference that I have noticed however, is the level and types of expectation. In school it is understood that assignments must be completed, quizzes and tests must be taken, and regular attendance is expected. In the professional world, some of that stuff doesn’t exist and a lot of expectation is placed on results. I’ve welcomed the challenges from both environments.

15) What are your ultimate career goals?

Well, I’ve already achieved one of my goals having been offered this great opportunity with Walmart Infosec. I think, as of now, I will just continue to focus, buckle down, and see where this journey takes me. I feel that my journey will be more exciting that way! Plus, this exploratory way of thinking about the future of my career seems unrestricting and totally freeing. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

16) What is your experience as a woman in the tech fields? What further steps for equality would you like to see in general in technology fields?

Since my start in tech, I have noticed a strong movement of women entering technology spaces. While I realize the tech industry is still predominantly male occupied, it is exciting to see and know females like me that go out there and pursue their dreams regardless of what others may think or traditional gender roles. If this movement continues to progress, I definitely see the future of tech being very bright for everyone, regardless of gender.

17) What would you say to current NOVA IET students who would like to follow your example? What should they do and what should they expect?

Network, network, network! I personally attended every hiring event available and pursued every opportunity offered to me. Additionally, ensure that you are prepared for these opportunities so as to present the best in you while taking advantage of them. You never know what’s waiting for you behind that next door.

18) And a fun one: Do you watch any TV shows about Cyber (Mr. Robot for example)? What does entertainment get right and wrong when they portray Cyber agents and hackers?

I don’t typically watch a lot of TV, but I have seen cyber related television programs and movies. Prior to entering cybersecurity, the explanation of actors/actresses portraying cyber roles seemed extremely technical and difficult to grasp. But now, if I don’t know exactly what one of these characters is saying, I can at least piece together what they are referring to. Being able to do that is so awesome and makes me feel like I am part of a special club, lol. However, I feel that these roles may sometimes take it a little overboard and not portray the human side of cyber players.

19) Anything important to add that we might have missed?

No, I think that you generally covered everything across the board. I just want to reiterate how appreciative I am for this opportunity, and I encourage everyone striving for a career in cybersecurity to keep pursuing their goals and “stay the course”! If I can do this, you can too!

NOVA Wins Big At SkillsUSA State Leadership Conference

(Back row: Humza Ansari, Tyler Armendaris, Maddie Gebremichael. Middle row: Niki Gordon, Ardian Peach, Hamza Ansari, Claudia Oviedo, Front Row: Alex Choi)

Seven NOVA Students earned seven medallions at the SkillsUSA Virginia State Leadership Conference on April 8-9 in Virginia Beach!

They competed in four competitions: Cybersecurity, Computer Programming, Extemporaneous Speaking, and Job Skills Demonstration.

Cybersecurity Team A (Ardian Peach and Humza Ansari) earned gold, while Cybersecurity Team B (Tyler Armendaris and Hamza Abdo) earned silver.

During competitions students had to demonstrate their technical skill knowledge around topics like Enterprise Router Security, Managing Switch Security and Troubleshooting, as well as completed a written test. Alex Choi earned gold in Computer Programming, showcasing his technical abilities in programming related to Java and C++ as well as completing a written test.

Claudia Oviedo earned gold in Extemporaneous Speaking where she gave a speech after only having 5 minutes to prepare on that topic. And, Maddie Gebremichael earned gold in Job Skill Demonstration A where she gave a speech and taught the judges how to build a suspension bridge and the engineering behind it.  These gold medalists will be advancing to compete at the National Leadership and Skill Conference in June in Atlanta.

During the conference Opening Session, NOVA advisor Niki Gordon was recognized for being the Post-Secondary Representative to the SkillsUSA Virginia Foundation Board of Directors.

Congratulations, all!

#BoldlyNOVA #WeDoSTEM #SkillsUSA #SkillsUSAVA

Veteran’s Day Student Spotlight

Saim Bashir is a student in NOVA’s Cybersecurity program, choosing cybersecurity as a career path after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.

He is an active member of the Veterans’ Student Association and, as an injured warrior, a great example of perseverance. He has faced many barriers while transitioning back into civilian life. However, being involved at NOVA and in the Cybersecurity program has given him an outlet to be active and engaged. He had often questioned if he would be able to find a fulfilling career after serving our country, and NOVA’s Cybersecurity program has given him the ability to continue making a difference.

Despite financial hardships brought on by the pandemic, the G3 funding has allowed him to continue to take classes at NOVA. Thank you for your service, Saim!


Check out our Cybersecurity program at NOVA.

IET Events In October


October 13: IET Virtual Job and Internship Fair

NOVA IET and NOVA Workforce are hosting a virtual Information and Engineering Technologies Job and Internship Fair for NOVA students and alumni in Career Connection on Wednesday, October 13, 2021 at 12-3 PM EST. Companies from various IT industries will be represented including Cybersecurity, Data Center Operations, Cloud Computing, and more. Get connected with the companies in your field for networking and internship & job opportunities. Contact novacareerservices@nvcc.edu with questions

Register to attend at iet.novastem.us/JobFair


October 14: Women in IET Coffee Chat

Join us for the October Women in IET and Computer Science Coffee Chat where we will dive into how following your passions can lead to career opportunities. In this 1-hour panel discussion, panelists will discuss how they made the switch to a STEM career after starting out in a completely different field and how you can carve out the career you want by following your own unique journey.

Register at http://iet.novastem.us/TechWomen


October 18 – October 22: NOVA IET Cyber Week

As part of National Cybersecurity awareness month, the NOVA IET division will host a series of virtual events and workshops during Cyber week 2021 to educate, engage and inspire students interested in pursuing careers in cybersecurity. Each day we will host a different workshop that addresses a relevant topic including taking the CompTIA Security+ exam, navigating a career in Cyber security, and writing a cybersecurity resume. For an overview of the week’s events see the list below. You can register for all NOVA IET Cyber Week Events at iet.novastem.us/Register

Monday, Oct 18 6:00 PM- 7:00 PM – Acing the CompTIA Security+ Exam Part 1

Kick-off NOVA IET Cybersecurity Awareness Week with a deep dive into what it takes to ace the CompTIA Security+ Exam. This is a two-part workshop with Part 1 being led by NOVA IET Professor, Kwabena (KK) Konadu. In this one-hour virtual workshop, Professor KK will cover best practices and resources for preparing for the CompTIA Security+ Exam, exam topics, and walk attendees through a practice round of answering multiple-choice questions. iet.novastem.us/Register

Tuesday, Oct 19 6:30 PM-7:30 PM – Cybersercurity Resume Writing with Katia’s Cylife

You can’t land a job in Cybersecurity without a good Cybersecurity resume. Join professional Cybersecurity Resume writer and founder of Katia’s Cylife, Katia Dean as she walks you through actionable steps to build a dynamic resume tailored for cybersecurity roles. In this session you will discuss resume action verbs, design tips and tricks, and how to consider positioning yourself. Katia will also walk you through a live resume feedback session and a brief demo on the NIST 800-181 Cybersecurity Workforce Framework. iet.novastem.us/Register

Wednesday, Oct 20 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM – Landing a Job in Cybersecurity Recruiters Panel

On day 3 of NOVA IET Cyber Week a panel of cybersecurity recruiters will share their perspectives on what it takes to land a job in cybersecurity. If you are job searching, making a career switch into cyber, or just curious about what a career in cybersecurity looks like, join us for this virtual panel discussion to get your questions answered. iet.novastem.us/Register

Thursday, Oct 21 6:00 PM-7:30 PM- IET Speaker Series featuring Nick Espinosa

Cybersecurity is an exploding industry and with over five million vacant positions available around the world, the need for qualified professionals is immediate! In our second installment of the IET Speaker Series, Nick Espinosa, cybersecurity thought leader, TEDx Speaker, and regular columnist for Forbes, will talk about the state of the world today as it relates to cybersecurity for everyone and the issues we all face together. Join us virtually on Thursday, October 21, 2021, at 6 PM EST as Nick will help us understand what a career path in cybersecurity looks like so everyone who is interested can join the ranks of those who are defending our governments, businesses, educational institutions, healthcare, and more, around the world! iet.novastem.us/Register

Friday, Oct 22 10:00 AM- 11:30 AM – Acing the CompTIA Security+ Exam Part II

End NOVA IET Cyber Week by finishing up your CompTIA Security+ Exam Prep with Zach Lawrence, NOVA IET Cybersecurity Professor. In this 90-minute session Zach will walk you through how to approach answering performance-based questions on the CompTIA Security+ Exam. iet.novastem.us/Register


 IET and Computer Science Clubs

Cyber.OPS – Cybersecurity Club Manassas Campus

Cyber.OPS Club is held every Thursday in Trailside room 249 on the Manassas campus from 5:30PM – 7:00PM.  Fall semester meetings will focus on the following topics: Computer Hardware, Operating Systems and Services, Cloud Computing, Computer Networking and Advanced topics: Firewalls, UTM and IDS/IPS.  Spring semester meetings will focus primarily on offensive security.  Club members will be exposed to a broad range of topics Including but not limited to intro to Windows and Linux, Web servers and more.

For more info contact Zach Lawrence mlawrence@nvcc.edu or Santwana Das sdas@nvcc.edu

 

 

(ISC)² Award for NOVA Cybersecurity Faculty

NOVA Cybersecurity faculty member Marouane Balmakhtar, is a 2021 (ISC)² Global Achievement Award Recipient!

This Senior Professional Award is given in recognition of the 5G Cybersecurity and Security Awareness project. This is the highest global award an individual can receive in the cybersecurity field!

Prof. Balmakthar said “I am so humbled and excited to have received this. As a representative of the NOVA /NVCC family, this is a testament for us and for the work that we do as part of our designation as a Center of Academic Excellence and for our unmatched Cybersecurity leadership.”

Global Achievement Award recipients will be celebrated during (ISC)²’s premier global event, Security Congress, which will be held both virtually and in-person on October 18-20, 2021. More info about the event at https://www.isc2.org/Congress#

Prof. Balmakhtar can be reached at mbalmakhtar@nvcc.edu

#WeDoSTEM

 

$1.1M Grant to Build Regional Tech Talent

NOVA’s Go Virginia Grant will Support a Dual Enrollment Expansion Project for Information and Engineering Technology

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), was recently awarded a Go Virginia grant of $1.11 million, following Governor Northam’s announcement allocating over $11 million to help advance economic recovery efforts across the commonwealth. NOVA will apply the funds to implement the Dual Enrollment Expansion Program for Information and Engineering Technology (DEEP-IET) with a goal to develop regional workforce capacity in IET careers.

In broadening the conversation for technology opportunities and partnerships across the state, NOVA will collaborate with the Northern Virginia Economic Alliance (NOVA EDA), the Loudoun County Economic Development Authority (LCEDA) and local school districts, particularly to improve the regional capacity for producing IET talent by investing in faculty development and student support structures.

The grant allows for expanded programming to raise awareness and access for underrepresented student populations in IET fields, supporting them with mentoring services, career readiness activities, and internship opportunities with the goal of driving up graduation rates for students.

GO Virginia’s Region 7 Council has identified cybersecurity, data center operations (DCO), and cloud computing as some of the fields where the talent shortage is most acute. NOVA currently has one-year career study certificates (CSC) and two-year applied associate degree programs in these fields, which were co-developed with regional industry partners. Additionally, NOVA has CSC and two-year programs in engineering technology leading to high-demand jobs in manufacturing and critical infrastructure support services.

The DEEP-IET pilot program is structured as a block-scheduling model that combines class time, wrap-around services, and support for incoming students. Furthermore, this model will help ensure regional capacity-building for IET by developing secondary teachers into credentialed adjunct faculty who can provide dual enrollment opportunities at regional high schools. The DEEP-IET program is planned to create 288 additional graduates, 96 new internships, and expand the number of certified dual enrollment teachers in the region by summer 2024.

The program roll-out will include:

  • Two summer bridge programs designed to recruit underrepresented students into NOVA’s IET division, serving a total of 48 students per year. Bridge programs provide college credit and will help orient graduating high school students to career pathways in IET and student services on campus.
  • A structured block-schedule for first semester IET students in cybersecurity, cloud computing, or engineering technology. Block-scheduling places students in cohorts with the same sequence and schedule of classes during their first year at NOVA. Up to 48 students will be placed in cohorts each year, which will allow mentoring, career preparation, and advising to be structured in the same way as coursework, increasing student access to these services.
  • An internship and career readiness program for IET students between their first and second year of coursework in collaboration with local employers. This program will also work to further NOVA’s goal to integrate academic coursework and work experience.
  • A credentialing program to prepare regional high school teachers to teach credit-bearing dual enrollment courses in information and engineering technology. Increasing the pool of credentialed dual enrollment instructors will strengthen regional capacity for introductory education in these fields.
  • A veterans outreach program to transition NOVA veterans and military-connected students to IET programs. NOVA currently enrolls 734 military-connected students as General Studies majors. This program will coordinate veteran career workshops showcasing IET educational pathways and careers.

#WeDoSTEM

See NOVA IET website for more info about programs

Read article in Technical.ly
See News Story from WDVM

 

NOVA Computer Science Students are SkillsUSA Winners!

Two of our NOVA Computer Science Students – Sesol Han (not pictured) and Arienbelle Aguila (with Skills USA Executive Director Chelle Travis) – finished 1st and 2nd in the SkillsUSA VA Leadership Conference in the post-secondary computer science competition!

(See Twitter and Facebook posts about the event).

Sesol Han was named State Champion and will compete virtually in the computer science division at SkillsUSA National Leadership Conference at the end of June.

In addition, NOVA student Da Nguyen Ngo participated in the SkillsUSA “Connect to My Future” Conference. These conferences allow NOVA students to showcase their skills in computer science, meet other students, and develop further skills that will help them succeed in the job market.

During the 2020-21 school year NOVA started a chapter of SkillsUSA thanks to the InNOVAtion Grant provided by the NOVA Foundation.  During this pilot year, three faculty members: Ryan Ammons (computer science), Kwabena “KK” Konadu (cybersecurity), and Babur Kohy (cybersecurity) were recruited as advisors.  These faculty members recruited 30 students (seven in computer science and 23 in cybersecurity) for the club.

NOVA SySTEMic plans to expand the SkillsUSA club at NOVA for the 2021-22 school year, including adding additive manufacturing program.

#CompSci #WeDoSTEM #BoldlyNOVA

 

NOVA Cybersecurity Team Finalists at Mid-Atlantic CCDC

Congratulations to the NOVA Cybersecurity team that placed 7th in qualifying for the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (MACCDC). Under the leadership of NOVA Cyber Faculty Kwabena Konadu and William McLaughlin, NOVA students Marijane Dicello (captain), Ardian Peach (co-captain), Ho Lee, Kiran Sameem (pictured above) and Tharwat Ghet, Jonathan Kim, and Obaid Rahman Sabori (not pictured) will advance to the MACCDC regional championship on April 2nd and 3rd.

Click Here for our Cybersecurity promo video featuring NOVA students.

Click Here for more info on NOVA’s Cybersecurity Program

The MACCDC is presented by Raytheon Intelligence & Space and run by the National CyberWatch Center.  It provides a unique experience for higher education students to test their knowledge and skills in a competitive environment.  The competition focuses on the operational aspects of managing and protecting an existing network infrastructure. The NOVA team prepared for the competition the entire semester by working through challenging problems in the areas of computer and network design, forensics, system configuration, and infrastructure protection.

The competition focuses more on operational task of assuming administrative and protective duties for an existing commercial infrastructure.  Groups of students from different universities and colleges in the Mid-Atlantic Region were assessed based on their ability to detect and respond to outside threats, maintain availability of existing services such as mail servers, database servers, web server, respond to business requests such as the addition or removal of additional services, and balance security needs against business operational requirements.

This year (2021), NOVA is among the 8 Qualifying MACCDC Round Finalists which includes the following 4 year colleges and universities: George Mason University, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Liberty University, University of Pittsburgh, Old Dominion University, Millersville University, and Capitol Technology University.

NOVA placed 7th out of the 23 colleges and universities below.

Qualifying Round Teams 

  1. Bowie State University, MD
  2. Capitol Technology University, MD
  3. Christopher Newport University, VA
  4. Community College of Baltimore County, MD
  5. East Carolina University, NC
  6. George Mason University, VA
  7. James Madison University, VA
  8. Liberty University, VA
  9. Marshall University, WV
  10. Millersville University, PA
  11. Northern Virginia Community College, VA
  12. Old Dominion University, VA
  13. Rutgers University, NJ
  14. Saint Vincent College, PA
  15. The Penn State University, PA
  16. The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, VA
  17. Towson University, MD
  18. University of Maryland Baltimore County, MD (2 teams)
  19. University of Maryland College Park, MD
  20. University of Maryland Global Campus, MD
  21. University of Pittsburgh, PA
  22. University of Virginia, VA (2 teams)
  23. West Virginia University, WV

NVCC Students/Team Members

Marijane Dicello: Captain
Ardian Peach: Co-Captain
Romaric Agondohoui
Tharwat Ghet
Jonathan Kim
Ho Lee
Obaid Rahman Sabori
Kiran Sameem

Team Judge, Coaches, and Management

Evelyn Adu-Gyamfi: CCDC Judge (Volunteer)
Michael Hancock:  Coach/Executive Director, AllCyber.org/Professor (Volunteer)
Tyrone Guiden:  Coach/Deputy Executive Director, AllCyber.org (Volunteer)
Kwabena Konadu (KK):   Coach/Management/NOVA Professor
William McLaughlin (Mac):  Coach/Management/NOVA Professor

Team Trainers

Bishnu Karki:  Director of Training, AllCyber.org (Volunteer)
Tyler Quigley:  Red Team Captain/Director of Engineering, AllCyber.org (Volunteer)
Jessica Lee:  Blue Team Trainer (Volunteer)

Sources/Links: https://maccdc.org/competition/