Student Spotlight: John Brennan
Welcome to our student spotlight series. Here we will share real stories about students who have taken the Cyber Defense Analyst bootcamp and where they are now. John was one of our first students to take the bootcamp in 2020 and is excited to share his experience.
What made you interested in Cyber Security?
I’ve always had a natural curiosity for it, at 14 I built my first computer. My friends were also building computers, so we just got into it together. Now I have friends in programming and IT, so we all still work in the computer industry.
For me, I just wanted to do something that I felt made a difference, when I looked into Cyber Security and the defensive side and realized how often people actually get attacked and compromised, I just realized I wanted to help. I wanted to stop things like that and that’s what I do now. At Huntress I get to do things like that on a day to day basis and I feel like I’m making a change to the world.
What were you doing before Cyber Security?
I was working at my girlfriends vape shop actually. I just needed a job and they needed extra help. I needed to go to school and they gave me the perfect hours to go to school so it worked out.
Where do you work now?
I work at Huntress Labs as a Threat Operations Analyst, I work from home and I never have to leave which is perfect. I have Level Effect to thank for my job at Huntress Labs. They recommended me for the role. It’s incredible when a company I never even heard of hired me and it’s full of some of the nicest people ever, literally. It was really exciting when I was going for the job, Greg helped beef up my resume and Linkedin and helped me prepare for my interview.
What are your goals in your career?
I am pretty happy at Huntress, so I think my goal at the moment it to Level Up as high as I can. Right now that is Level 3. It is going to take some work, obviously. There is a lot of different knowledge gaps between the levels. But the nice thing about Level Effect is it got pretty much 100% through Level 1 and 90% through Level 2. Now I just need to keep studying.
Analyst Tiers Explained
Organizations may have different levels of analysts to differentiate skills and experience. Different places will vary on what is needed to qualify for each level but for general purposes, the below can be referenced:
What is a typical day like as a Threat Operations Analyst.
Day to day basis I start at about 11am CST. When I get online everyone, but one analyst is online. Their hours are a little earlier and we’re all on different time zones, except for like three of us, the rest of us all over the world. Usually I check reports right away and we might have incidents to look at, someone might have ransomware so we’ll look at something like that.
Otherwise, day to day is pretty much doing some investigations on different files that look malicious and reporting on it. That is pretty much what 90% of my job is. Just figuring out what something is, reporting on it and telling them how to fix it. Which files to remove, which directories to look through, etc. It’s a really fun job, I really enjoy it. We also get to hunt which is just a queue where you look through a bunch of files, it’s so beautiful. Sometimes there thousands of them. I love those days, they are amazing. I talk to every analyst on a day to day basis, my manager is amazing, my coworkers are amazing. It’s impressive to see what a small group can do.
What did you enjoy most about the Cyber Defense Analyst bootcamp?
There was definitely a lot of challenges in that bootcamp for me. it was probably the hardest class I’ve ever taken. I never thought it would be which was kinda scary at the time. When I was going through it I was like – ‘Wow this is actually incredibly challenging’ but my favorite part was no matter how challenging it got, it was never too hard to the point where I wanted to give up. It was challenging to the point where it drove me and motivated me like I really want to figure this out and it would just irk me if I didn’t. I think the fact is, I am 22 years old and in different jobs or courses a lot of people have treated me like I was a younger kid, which I get because I am young. But, Greg and Rob have always treated me like I was just another person, like I was an adult. They’ve always treated me like a human being, they’ve been so kind to me and kind of just walked me through everything. I can’t tell you how many times an instructor spent hours after class talking through different things from class. My favorite part has to be that they go above and beyond in literally everything. They are just genuine people.
Opposed to other learning experiences you’ve had, what did you find was different about a bootcamp?
I loved the bootcamp style, I will be honest. As a person, I learn by doing not by watching a board all day long. The greatest thing about this bootcamp is literally even when you watching a board, you are doing something at the same time. So, they are walking you through doing all this crazy stuff and you’re sitting here just doing it and it’s way better than a normal class. For me, I can read something 100 times but if I do it once then I know I have it down in my head. In the bootcamp we learnt how to investigate Malware the old way so we used auto-runs, the sys internal suites, proc mon, proc explorer, where we just basically look for a file where it was starting. That was just an incredible experience because now I use that on my job. They were just hyper involved too, I have never had teachers be so involved. If you are lost they will guide you and slowly hint things along the way.
What advice would you give to students who are evaluating which bootcamp to attend?
Take Level Effect. I spent a large amount of time looking for the right bootcamp for me. I looked through probably 40 others before choosing Level Effect. Once I talked to Level Effect, I knew that one was the one I wanted to take because I could tell how far the instructors will go for you. Just the teachers alone make it worth it. And then you add the course content which is two geniuses who have all of this experience and have built basically a super course. I have never seen a course prepare you to be a SOC Analyst Level 1 better than this course. Literally, no other course would have prepared me to be where I am right now. I have Level Effect to thank for where I am right now. The class was just way better than anything else I had ever heard of or seen. Then I signed up and that all turned out to be true. When I saw how deep each section of the curriculum actually goes into, I knew this course was better than anything else I could’ve taken. The thing is too, no matter whether you’re advanced or a beginner, you can do it the same if you just put the effort in, that’s my favorite part about this course. It’s high level knowledge at an easier level of understanding. Where instead of someone just trying to barrel high level knowledge down your throat, they walk you through everything so you can fully understand all of this high level knowledge and it just makes you a way better Analyst.