Cybersecurity Beginner Thrives in Boot Camp

A photo of a laptop

"Learning something entirely new was a worthwhile experience in and of itself. I loved challenging myself to think in different ways, push past boundaries, and explore future career and certification options.” - Jennifer Chao

When Jennifer Chao entered her first Cybersecurity Boot Camp classroom, she was excited. Completely new to cybersecurity and coding, she was entering uncharted territory. Jennifer was one of only three females in a class of 19, and did not have a background in IT. However, she was eager to step up and learn new skills to expand her mind, and possibly launch a new career path.

Jennifer currently works in the scrap metal trading industry, with a focus on sales. “I decided I was ready to explore the idea of a career change and expand my skill set,” explains Jennifer. “I have many friends in IT, and they encouraged me to check out cybersecurity. I started researching programs, and was drawn to the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies (SCS) boot camp because it was in-class and very hands-on, which I wanted as someone who was completely new to the field.” 

She enrolled in the 24-week UofT SCS Cybersecurity Boot Camp, which is offered in partnership with Trilogy Education Services. Her bold move to dive head-first into learning a completely new skill inspired her classmates, most of whom worked in IT. “For a moment it was a bit intimidating to not have an IT background, but my classmates were amazing; they were beyond supportive, and we are still in contact today,” reflects Jennifer. “When I experienced challenges in my learning, I easily connected with an online tutor who helped answer the questions I had. I also enhanced my ability to problem solve. I really enjoyed learning something completely new…I felt like a kid again!”

While Jennifer immersed herself in mastering new technical abilities, she also found value in learning important soft skills. “There was a big emphasis on technical skills, however we also focused on the wide range of soft skills that are necessary to really succeed in cyber security; communication and teamwork skills are critical,” says Jennifer. “We explored issues and strategies around cybersecurity governance, attack responses, and how to build and manage policies and procedures. We also learned the importance of promoting and advocating for cybersecurity awareness.”

Having completed the boot camp in November 2019, Jennifer is excited about where her new skills will take her. “Learning something entirely new was a worthwhile experience in and of itself. I loved challenging myself to think in different ways, push past boundaries, and explore future career and certification options,” reflects Jennifer. “I now have a solid educational foundation and the confidence to pursue whatever opportunities come my way.”