While working as a math teacher, Rafael Ayala longed for the freedom to pursue his passion projects—coaching wrestling and track for high school students–while still being able to pay the bills. He’d been reading books and articles about cybersecurity in his free time for the past few years, but it took some time for him to find the time to commit to a career change.
“What drew me to cybersecurity was a book by Micah Zenko called Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy,” said Rafael, who has a Master’s degree in philosophy from San Francisco State. “I was so fascinated by the concept of thinking like your opponent in order to beat them, and I was so excited to find a job that is all about that.”
After graduating from Springboard’s Cyber Security Career Track, Rafael landed a job at Autodesk, a company that produces software for 3D design, engineering, and construction. He will start his new role at the end of May, assisting the company with maintaining its security policies during mergers and acquisitions.
I was a math teacher. I was also working on passion projects, but they didn’t help pay the bills. I decided to pursue cybersecurity because it’s a super interesting, growing yield. I wanted to be able to support myself and continue working on my passion project, which is being a wrestling coach.
One of the highlights of my year was coaching the kids for wrestling season, which goes from November to March. Two of my students made it to the state tournament and I was so proud of them. In the future, I’d like to position myself to be a cybersecurity educator.
I'll be working on mergers and acquisitions at Autodesk. My role involves making sure that companies that are being brought into the fold will understand our security policies so we can keep everybody’s data protected.
I'm definitely excited, but I'm also super nervous. I’ve been learning about cybersecurity for a long time, even before I joined Springboard, but working an actual cybersecurity job will be very different. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how the tools and concepts I learned atSpringboard will be implemented in the real world.
My mentors at Springboard were definitely very helpful. They told me to look at my network. Who do you know in your network that might be able to help you? It turns out that a good friend of mine works at Autodesk. Because of Springboard, I felt more confident asking a friend to help me advance my career, whereas in the past I never had that confidence to say, “Hey, there’s an opening at the company you work for. Would you give me a recommendation?”
My mentor was super supportive and was even willing to refer me to people in their network, which was great. They also sat down with me to do exercises on Hack the Box, which allowed me to put what I had learned into practice.
I had completed all the exercises in the curriculum and I was about to hit ‘submit’ to finish the course, and thought, you know what? Richard did so much for me through this process that I wanted him to be there with me on Zoom when I hit the ‘submit’ button. He was really appreciative of that.
It was a relief. It had been a busy year for me, so it was good to know that I’d checked a major item off my list. I had my Springboard certificate and I’d passed the CompTIA Security+ test, so I’d achieved some major milestones.
Definitely my mentor. He helped make abstract concepts more concrete. As you go through the curriculum, sometimes it’s hard to envision how a specific command is used in the real world. Then I would talk to my mentor and he would say things like, "Oh yeah, the other day I was working on hacking into a system and I did the enumeration using Netcat." It was great to hear directly from an industry professional about how the things I was learning are applied on the job.
Don’t be afraid to explore your interests and try new things. Nobody can take away what you’ve learned. Either way, you’re going to learn something along the way, so there’s no such thing as lost time.