While studying music performance at the University of Alaska in Anchorage, Catherine McKoy worked part-time providing child care to families in the Air Force. She also took on a campus gig as an audio visual technician conducting sound, visual, and performance quality checks on AV equipment ahead of campus events. Her then-boss had a deep interest in IT, so he took her under his wing and taught her about computers.
Shortly after earning her degree in music, she began to consider alternate career paths. Being such a broad field with so many areas of specialization—from ethical hacking to network security administration and more—cybersecurity had always intrigued Catherine. Living in a rural area, she was looking for a program that would enable her to study online at her own pace.
Now she’s a consumer compliance systems analyst at Alaska USA Credit Union, where she provides day-to-day support to all consumer compliance system users.
I’ve been providing childcare to families in the Air Force since my sophomore year of college. I would call it more of a gig than a job. I mostly did it on the weekends. I earned a degree in music and graduated in 2020 at the start of the pandemic, and then I had to rethink some things. That’s ultimately what led me to Springboard.
Honestly, cybersecurity sounded really cool. There are so many specializations that really interest me, like cloud security and network security. It’s also a valuable skill to have, especially after the pandemic. But even outside of the job market, cybersecurity skills are useful at home to protect your computer systems from intruders.
I’m a consumer compliance systems analyst. This is a brand new role at the company. My day-to-day consists of a lot of meetings with the product development team, risk management teams, and the VP of consumer compliance. We discuss backend security for the application we use and how we can best support or alter them to suit business needs. I also generate reports to make sure our systems are secure.
I’m also doing some online training to learn more about compliance and earn a few certifications, so my day also includes studying and listening to lectures.
I’ve learned that there are many more jobs in cybersecurity than just general SOC analysts or who do threat hunting in a fast-paced environment. There are other roles in cybersecurity like compliance that are still unsaturated, like the job I have now. I just skimmed the job description and applied for this role. I really had no idea what to expect.
Compliance is about making sure you're following the rules given by another entity. Since I work for a financial institution, I have to make sure we follow rules set by the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Office of Foreign Assets Control [a financial intelligence agency of the U.S. Treasury].
Government entities set rules and regulations for us to follow, and we've got to make sure that our systems are in line with those goals, essentially.
Springboard was highly rated and had so many good reviews. Being able to study online at my own pace was really helpful because I live in a secluded area. A lot of the other bootcamps I looked at were more expensive. I think Springboard is great, and it changed my life in many ways. I don't think I would've gotten this job without it.
I feel like I got a lot of experience overall. It definitely reminded me of a college curriculum. We had to watch a lot of lectures, which wasn’t my favorite part, but I knew I had to get it done. I loved having weekly calls with my mentor. It was one of the best parts of the program. I never had that in college. I could see my professors during office hours, but they would say, “Just do the work,” versus having a mentor who would say, “Okay, let's make a plan for what you're going to do each week. Do you have any questions? Let me explain this to you." It seemed like my mentor actually cared.
The curriculum wasn’t too hard; it was just a lot of information. Studying was time-consuming. I can see why it would take some time to finish the program if you have a full-time job, a family, or other responsibilities. But overall I didn't think it was too hard. I got through it fairly quickly.
The career coaches were awesome. I definitely took advantage of the services and had them look over my resume several times and did a few mock interviews. The job search resources they provided were incredibly helpful—from knowing how to negotiate to how to interview, to how to search for a job using different search engines and job sites.
Taking the CompTIA Security+ exam and getting my certificate gave me leverage over other job candidates. It’s a highly sought-after certification and it’s quite difficult to get, so I’m really glad I was able to achieve that.
My mentor’s name was Nana Yaw Boachie-Agyeman [manager of cyber and information security risk compliance at a bank in Ghana]. Our relationship was great. He was incredibly reliable. He answered all of my questions. Our mentor sessions were supposed to be 30 minutes, but sometimes we would talk for 45 minutes to an hour, and I really appreciated him for that. I completed the course as fast as I did because of the support that I had.
My capstone project was a report on a simulated penetration test for a fictional company. The report was 15 pages long and consisted of two components. There was the technical analysis portion and the executive summary, which is a shorter version of the technical summary.
We had to write about the project scope, our deliverables, project objectives, potential timeline, reconnaissance methodologies, vulnerability methodologies, a summary of findings, any applicable graphs or pictures, and provide recommendations to secure this fictional system.
This was probably the hardest project throughout the course. It took me about two solid weeks to complete. I revised each section at least once, based on my mentor's feedback.
Yes, I did. It was really helpful. Because I don’t have the strongest IT background, I had to emphasize my bootcamp experience. Going through a bootcamp shows initiative, so I talked up all the different projects I completed and explained that I was studying for the CompTIA Security+ exam. I also mentioned my experience as an AV technician at my university. Even though my degree was in music, I beefed up different aspects of my college experience that would be useful in the job market.
Having a mentor. It really changed the learning experience for me. I had to motivate myself, of course, but having a mentor to check in with was way more helpful than I thought it would be. I motivated myself, but having a mentor to check in was way more helpful than I thought it would be. Having that kind of support as a student is so important because we don’t know everything. Having someone to lean on and talk to is so much more beneficial than people give credit for.