Eric Rivera grew up yearning to become a game designer. More specifically, he wanted to help make the next AAA game–a term used in the industry to describe high-grossing, high-profile video games produced and distributed by major game publishers.
But after graduating with a bachelor of fine arts in game and interactive media design, he lost all interest in game design. Something had changed. In the meantime, he took a job as a field technician for an internet and cable company in Chicago. Initially, he knew nothing about cable or internet troubleshooting, but quickly got up to speed by watching YouTube videos and learning on the job.
After four years at the same company, he decided he wanted more. Craving job security in an uncertain economy, he was drawn to cybersecurity given the high demand for security professionals. After completing Springboard’s Cyber Security Bootcamp, he landed a role as an identity access management (IAM) specialist at Dearborn Group, a subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield, where he manages user permissions.
I had just graduated from art school and a friend was moving to Seattle. They asked if I wanted to take over their job working for a company that provides student housing. I said, “Sure, why not?” I needed a job. I did that for about three years. In 2022, the company gave me a permanent position in the IT department. I felt like I didn’t know enough about IT and wanted to learn more, so I started looking into bootcamps and that’s when I found Springboard.
I was burnt out. I’d been doing the same thing for so long. I’d always wanted to work in the gaming industry but news of the mass layoffs shook me up a bit and dissuaded me from entering an industry with no job security. When I researched the cybersecurity field, I learned how stable it is. It’s a growing market and there’s a lot of demand for it. Springboard also offered a job guarantee so I thought, why not take the plunge?
I’m in identity access management, so I handle permissions for applications we use and folders containing sensitive information. I’m the first point of contact when people need to access something. They make a request and I provide the proper paperwork to ensure everything is documented. Then I make sure it’s approved. Once the paperwork is done, I create an account for that user or request access in the application.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. I think that's a very big part of coming into such a large organization. I did some identity access management at my old job, I wasn't coming blind, but big companies operate on a much larger scale. It was kind of a culture shock because I've mostly worked non-corporate jobs, so I had to take the initiative and ask for help when needed.
My mentor was Nana Yaw Boachie-Agyeman, CISSP. He walked me through his journey in the cybersecurity industry. I asked him about his experience and what advice he would give to his younger self. Always be curious–that was the main advice he gave me. Never stop learning because this field is constantly changing.
I met with my career coach for about three months after I graduated in December. They encouraged me to diversify my resume. I was applying for penetration tester and SOC analyst roles. They encouraged me to focus on what skills the job description asks for and include those keywords in my resume. That helped me get interviews and make a good impression on recruiters.
I'd like to learn about red teaming. Ethical hacking caught my interest when I first started at Springboard because I like to figure out how things work.
It was important to have my family's support. When I was studying for the CompTIA Security+ certification exam, my family helped me a lot by studying with me, helping me prepare on the day of the test, and encouraging me to push myself further. Some of the challenges I faced were learning concepts such as governance, risk, and compliance. My mentor helped me push past it and understand it.
Contact the interviewer and see if you can get the questions in advance. Some interviews require you to explain concepts or demonstrate them. I'm not a very verbal person so I definitely prefer a demonstration interview.
I crafted my resume to support my experience and the skills I bring. I also tied in the projects I did at Springboard and ensured those were represented to fit what an employer is looking for.
Oh gosh, everything! I discovered that cybersecurity is a broad field. There's so much more to it than being a SOC analyst or a pen tester. Knowing that helped me broaden my job search and plan my career. It was very eye-opening.
Be open-minded. Don’t tether yourself to one cybersecurity specialty from the get-go. Explore and see what’s out there. Have fun with it, and don’t be afraid to fail.