After a long career in hospitality management, Dylan Wood was laid off from his job as regional chain manager at The Kraft Heinz Company, one of the largest food and beverage companies in the world, representing household-name brands like Kraft, Kool-Aid, Jell-O, and more. He’d been working closely with emerging chain restaurants in the Southwest, many of which were forced to close during government-mandated lockdowns. Few industries suffered more during the pandemic than the restaurant industry.
Dylan had always been interested in computers; his father worked in IT for over 35 years. He’d been taking apart and rebuilding computers since he could talk, so a career in cybersecurity made sense.
What he loved most about the restaurant industry was the ability to meet new people every day—something Dylan hopes to bring to his new career in cybersecurity after spending a few years getting his hands dirty as a SOC analyst.
“Down the road, I can always transition into a more people-facing role in cybersecurity, such as leading a team of SOC analysts,” he said. “I've thought about possibly going into cybersecurity sales. Someone has to sell businesses on cybersecurity solutions.”
I got into restaurant management because I liked the industry, and I had earned an undergraduate degree in Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management. So, I held a number of restaurant management jobs in Wisconsin and Minnesota, which is where I'm from. Then I decided to make the switch to the sales side of things, so I moved to Colorado about eight years ago. I took a job with Kraft Heinz, and it was always good for me. In my last position, I was selling food and beverage products to what we would call "emerging national accounts”—for example, a small business that could be the next Chick-Fil-A in the Southwest.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 was not too kind to restaurants. My company made the decision to lay me off in March 2021. Before that, I had been looking at getting into cybersecurity. I had seen that there was a talent shortage in cybersecurity. I've been working with computers in my free time since I was a kid, I took computer classes in high school, and I have my own home network that I set up and mess around with. Being laid off seemed a good sign that I should try something new.
Just the people. I enjoy talking to people, learning new stories about people. I've met Jared Allen from the Minnesota Vikings. I've met people who worked with my dad 30 years ago and randomly walked into the restaurant I managed. While I come off as introverted to a lot of people, I do really like going up to people and introducing myself.
My dad was in IT for 35 years, so he always told us kids to go into IT, and none of us listened to him. My sister-in-law's boyfriend is about my age and he had a similar career path. He worked a few jobs he didn't really care for or found frustrating. Then he completed a bootcamp and made that transition. He explained cyber security to me and I became more interested. COVID really gave me that final push, especially after I was laid off.
Both. With my dad working in IT, I took apart and built computers from a young age. We were one of the first households in the area to get rid of dial-up internet back in the day. As far as software, I tried a bit of everything, from Napster to LimeWire, like every kid did. I built my own Raspberry Plex servers, so nothing too crazy or in-depth like Nmap or Wireshark.
I was inspired by the advice from my mentor at Springboard. It's a good platform to discuss my thought process and share what I'm doing. So even six months down the road, I still plan to update it as I continue my education outside of Springboard. I went from selling ketchup to major restaurant chains, which requires a lot of soft skills, and now I'm going into an industry that's very technical. You need to have certifications, you need to know certain modes of wireless transmission. So I think that's been really interesting for me to blog about.
Down the road, I can always transition into a more people-facing role in cybersecurity, such as leading a team of SOC analysts. I've thought about possibly going into cybersecurity sales. Someone has to sell businesses on cybersecurity solutions. I feel like I have the soft skills but I understand I need to get my hands dirty as an analyst for the first six to 12 months to really understand what the industry is and everything that Springboard taught me.
The Security+ certification offered through Springboard is a great certification for getting a job, it's very highly sought after and pays well. I'm seeking out a CompTIANetwork+ certification as well just to prove that I have a good understanding of what a network is, like the different standards, cable crimping, and what types of antennas we might use. Coming from a background with zero technical skills, I think that will show future employers that I can walk the talk.
I'm not actively studying for any other certifications, but I’d like to receive a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification within six months of completing my Springboard course. I’ve thought about specializing in penetration testing as well. Outside of Springboard, I’ve been doing penetration tests using Hack The Box and TryHackMe. Another certification I'm pursuing is the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner so I can understand cloud computing.
First and foremost, don't overwhelm yourself. Cybersecurity is just so encompassing. You can do everything from physical penetration tests and trying to break into a facility to focusing on a niche area, like iOS security. Some resources that have helped me stay focused include TryHackMe, Hackthebox, Reddit, YouTube, and Udemy. Being active on Springboard’s Slack channel has also been helpful for me.
Overall, the curriculum is good. I enjoy it. I like the self-paced aspect of it. Springboard strikes a good balance between holding your hand and letting you figure things out for yourself. And there’s a good mix of learning materials. You might listen to a podcast, or do a quick course on LinkedIn Learning, write a paper, or do a project in Python.
As for the mentorship, I really appreciate that it's not just some professor reviewing the projects I submit every week—it's an actual person who works in the industry. My mentor is a SOC lead, so each week we’ll talk about my projects and any advice or feedback he has for me, but sometimes he’ll tell me about real-world cybersecurity incidents he’s dealt with at work.
It’s interesting to hear that from someone you have a connection with instead of just watching a YouTube video about it.
My mentor has been in the industry long enough to understand job titles, different companies, and the thought processes behind different cybersecurity strategies. He helped me pare down the list of industry certifications I wanted to get. He told me I should get comfortable with the technical skills first and be able to talk about security practices and analyze packets.
He also gave me a lot of reassurance when I delayed my Network+ test exam. I just didn't feel like I was ready. I felt disappointed in myself because I'd been studying a lot for it, but it’s a very in-depth exam. He said, "For all the certifications I've ever received, I've delayed every single exam, except one.” That was very reassuring to hear.
The interactions with people, whether through Slack, with my mentor, with the career coaches at Springboard. You get so much hands-on experience with different people. I've had those people there to help guide me and point me in the right direction. Looking back, I don't regret ever signing up for Springboard. I find it very beneficial to be pointed in the right direction. In the long run, it'll help me with my career, which is ultimately my goal. If I’d studied on my own, I probably would've gotten frustrated and fallen back into my old career, but now I’m a hundred percent dedicated to cybersecurity.
Making a career switch is not easy. It can seem overwhelming. You're going from something familiar and safe to something completely different. But in the long run for me, it will be so much more beneficial. I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and I will be significantly happier in a career path that will be more beneficial to me and my family. Thankfully, I've had the support from my family, friends, and Springboard, to make that change. It's been 100% worth it.