Designer, Farmer, Cyber Security Analyst. Meet Frank Tran.

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I first found myself motivated to enter the Cyber Security realm when my friend and I were sharing stories about our career choices. By no means are we unfortunate or unlucky, and our choice to enter this field is out of a desire for stability. This chronicle covers my experience in entering the Cyber Security field and will be updated after I find a full-time position practicing Cyber Security.

Background

My background is complicated. I started as a try-hard designer who was lucky enough to work for various companies that designed theme parks and other forms of themed entertainment — some companies more famous than others. Unfortunately for me, this type of work was always contract-based, and I just wanted to find a home where I could work indefinitely, but these contracts always made me question my reality.

My reality was this: I wanted a stable job — a place where I could grow at a measurable rate and become really good at something. But I experienced my friends growing up, moving out, and expressing deep gratefulness that their full-time work has kept them long term. Their pay grew as well as their satisfaction.

When it came time for me to take a hiatus from the design world, I took any escape I could. So, I dropped all my ties to design and learnt my family trade — farming. I learned a great deal during my 6 months as a farmer, but now I was looking for something less stressful on my body, closer to home, and something that would be able to generate a wage more comfortable for me.

The Beginning of the Journey

I started my journey knowing nothing, and I knew this would be a difficult one — but at the time I thought, “Nothing could be as difficult as my former design and farming adventures — right?”

Well, I was in for an adventure — one that started off in June 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 Lockdown in the United States. I knew that I needed to get my feet wet with something — anything that would make me knowledgeable enough to speak about the topic or to be able to at least follow the conversation. I started by gathering ideas off any reputable online forum I could regarding certifications and classes and what would be the best option that would immediately lead to a job. Most people pointed to a few Reddit threads on Cyber Security with thoroughly mapped out career paths and brutally honest milestones.

After some thorough research into Cyber Security, I decided to follow what most people on Reddit suggested and I set a date to take the CompTIA Security+ SY0–501 exam. My friend and I became study buddies and day-in, day-out, for 14 hours-a-day, for three months, we would study from several materials: a thick textbook, a series of videos, and a LOT of test questions. We had no idea what kind of exam we were in for.

The Exam

My friend and I realized that the questions we were asked during any and all the practice exams out in the world were worded NOTHING like the exam questions themselves. We thought we were destined to fail — especially after our rigorous 3 months of studying.

But to our surprise, we passed — and with more than decent scores! 2021 was just around the corner and we were ready to pick a bootcamp to get some practical knowledge. He told me about an instructor he liked at a different bootcamp that started his own and he said to give him a call.

So, I reached out to him on LinkedIn and set an appointment with some questions about how the bootcamp might go. I was ready and determined to go all in, but I needed to confirm a few things about the course.

Intro to Level Effect

During the call, I had my doubts, until he challenged me to reach out to any of his students and simply ask them, “What did you think about Level Effect?” I thought, that’s a bold challenge asking somebody that kind of open-ended question. Let’s see if he can put his money where his mouth is. So, I accepted his challenge.

After talking to at least 5 people who have taken his course either in Level Effect or prior from another course, they ALL claimed the same things. To paraphrase parts of the interviewee’s conversation, they said “a very robust class in practicality and in theory,” “there is A LOT to learn and it was definitely tough,” “best experience I’ve had,” “hard even though I came in knowing a few things.” All of my research pointed to Level Effect being the challenge for me, so I signed up immediately for the Cyber Defense Analyst course.

Tough, but focused

Level Effect’s pacing was fast. A firehose of knowledge is shot at you during the lectures; you are expected to go through each of the modules to learn about a topic for the week, dive in-depth on your own with whatever resources you can. During the labs you are expected to produce a report worthy of presenting to a Fortune 500 executive every week. The reports would be reviewed by the instructors in real-time or if you ask them outside of class or office hours.

I really appreciated all the career help, every instructor and all the lessons. When I finished the bootcamp, I really felt sad that all my new Cyber Defense colleagues were about to go their own way in life. All the same sad feelings from graduating High School came up and my heart felt that — that bittersweet feeling of having learned so much in such a short duration.

It really did change me and my outlook on this career path. So, thank you Level Effect, for giving me the confidence to enter this career path and arming me with a sharper mind and resilience in character. I will do everything I can to make it in this industry.

Let the job hunt… continue…

Throughout the Level Effect Course, my goal was to do whatever I could to secure a job as soon as possible to support my family and get a foothold in this career path. Since the halfway mark of the class, I’ve been making resumes and sending them out.

I used to be scared, but after hearing about how some of the students’ tackled this problem, I adopted some of their resume writing techniques.

I’m not going to sugarcoat this — this is the truly difficult part. I’m looking for an entry-level position, associate-level position, or an internship for a way to get into a company so I can prove that I know how to be a Cyber Defense Analyst. What even is a Cyber Defense Analyst but another name for an Information Security Analyst or any other name along those lines? I’m working on making a portfolio that SHOWS I know how to do this.

So, I am working on making my Github and GitLab stand out more. (links coming soon!)

Designer, Farmer, Cyber Security Analyst. Meet Frank Tran. was originally published in Level Effect on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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