Alumni Spotlight

From Criminal Justice Degree to Cybersecurity after Lighthouse Labs

Jess Feldman

Written By Jess Feldman

Jennifer Inglis

Edited By Jennifer Inglis

Last updated on June 26, 2024

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Ivan Connors had a background in criminal justice when he enrolled in the Cybersecurity Bootcamp at Lighthouse Labs to direct his career into digital security. Now a Digital Evidence Technician for the Calgary Police Service, Ivan explains what a typical day looked like in the bootcamp, the cybersecurity certifications Lighthouse Labs prepares students for, and what it took to land his first cybersecurity position after the bootcamp.

💡 Lighthouse Labs is now offering their Cybersecurity Bootcamp for only $3,500 (down from $14,000) for a limited time funded by Upskill Canada [powered by Palette Skills] and the Government of Canada. Learn more.

You had previous experience working in security — What inspired you to focus your career on cybersecurity?

I originally planned to become a police officer. I got a criminal justice degree, worked in security, and volunteered for the Calgary Police Service. I did everything I could to become a police officer until I learned that I had a physical condition that would prevent me from doing so. I was disappointed, but I knew that my strengths lay in public service and supporting public safety, so I decided to apply the mindset of physical security to digital security and looked into cybersecurity programs. 

There are many cybersecurity bootcamps now — Why did you choose Lighthouse Labs?

I knew I didn’t have the time capacity for an academic degree, but several friends shared positive experiences with tech bootcamps and suggested I check out cybersecurity bootcamps. I felt that while there was a high cost of entry, the program could be done in four months and I could start job hunting far sooner. I was initially looking for coding bootcamps and a friend recommended Lighthouse Labs. I was pleasantly surprised to learn of the cybersecurity bootcamp and felt like it was a perfect fit!

In your experience, did you feel like you had to know basic coding to apply to Lighthouse Labs?

Definitely not. They’re looking mainly for basic computer competency such as basics in networking, hardware and operating systems. 

Walk us through a typical day in the Cybersecurity Bootcamp! 

Every day there would be a two-hour live lecture, and then we would go through a topic as thoroughly as possible. We would usually spend half the time discussing the previous day's topic and then half the time discussing a new topic. The curriculum was scaffolded in a way that made it easy to learn and specify questions for the next day’s lesson. 

How many hours a day/week did you dedicate to the bootcamp?

Starting the bootcamp I was under the impression that the expectation was 12-hour days, five days a week, plus weekends. But for my cohort, it ended up being more like four-hour days, five days a week. The actual workload was lighter than I originally thought. 

Were you able to work while completing the Cybersecurity Bootcamp?

Luckily, my parents were able to help me out financially so I could enroll full-time, but at least half of my cohort had other responsibilities they were able to manage while in the bootcamp.

What were your instructors and TAs like? Were they cyber professionals?

I had great experiences with almost all of the instructors — some were very good in their field, but new to teaching while others were solid in all aspects! The instructors at Lighthouse Labs were the best part of the experience for me. Not only were they knowledgeable, they were also receptive to questions and comments. When an instructor didn’t have the answer, they would work to find it, which I admire. 

If you got stuck on something, how did you get support from the Lighthouse Labs team?

Lighthouse Labs recommends going through some of the student advisors. Sometimes the advisors were great and I would be able to work out my problem with them. If I wasn’t able to, I would reach out to my instructors. 

What did you learn in the Cybersecurity Bootcamp?

The bootcamp covered everything from the foundation of how computers function to how things can be exploited through vulnerabilities. We also covered offensive security like penetration testing and defensive posturing in terms of network configurations and programming. We learned a little about programming aspects concerning policy and procedure. 

What kinds of projects or labs did you work on in the bootcamp?

Almost every topic that we covered had some sort of lab component to it. There was a final capstone project where we could choose a topic based on a given scenario. If I remember correctly, mine was a bank hack scenario where I had to answer some questions and then focus on a discussion. I focused on the motivations and objectives of the attacking party. 

Did Lighthouse Labs prepare you for any cybersecurity certifications?

Lighthouse Labs prepared us for the CompTIA A+ and Security+ certifications. 

  • The CompTIA A+ certification is required for most entry-level IT jobs. By doing the bootcamp, you should be able to do 90% of the A+ exam without having to do any extra studying. The A+ is thankfully relatively simple and only gets into technical language, which you have to cover as a part of cybersecurity. 
  • For the CompTIA Security+ exam, the curriculum prepared us for 40% of the content in the exam. After you complete the bootcamp, you do have to do a bit more studying. 

Did you end up taking your certification exams during the bootcamp? 

I already had my A+ certification before entering the bootcamp. I am scheduled to take my Security+ soon. Lighthouse Labs covered my Security+ exam costs, and you can schedule the test whenever you’re ready. 

Since this was an online bootcamp, were you able to connect with your cohort?

My cohort was from all over the country, and I made some digital friends that I still keep in contact with. I'm a pretty social creature, so during the bootcamp where we all have a unified mission, it becomes a lot easier to connect because you always have at least some topic in common to talk through.

How did Lighthouse Labs prepare you for the job hunt

Career counseling started after the program was finished. When I started the bootcamp there was a lot of hype around booming cyber careers, but the reality for me is that I spent a year unemployed and looking for a job. I had a couple of career counselors from Lighthouse Labs who would check in every other week. My final career advisor was perfect. He got me my internship, guided me through an array of things, and helped me reach out to different people to see if they were looking for career prospects. He was super in-tune and ready to get me where I wanted to go.

What cybersecurity roles did you feel qualified to apply for after graduating?

I was looking for a role as a security operations center analyst, which is the baseline entry point for information security. 

What was your cybersecurity internship experience like after the bootcamp?

The internship was with a startup working on a project to digitally map the coastline of Nova Scotia to find and predict floods and other natural disasters. It was a bit early for them to start worrying about cybersecurity since they were in such a conceptual stage. I spent my time in the internship reviewing their ideas and pointing out possible cybersecurity risks or procedures they may want to keep in mind.

Did having internship experience on your resume help you land your first cybersecurity job?

It certainly didn't hurt. A lot of organizations don't like it when you have resume gaps, so I think it matters to be working in the field I’m trying to continue working in. 

You’re now a Digital Evidence Technician for the Calgary Police Service — congrats! Was the Calgary Police Service interested in your bootcamp experience and/or cybersecurity certification?

They were interested in my technical skills. Because I have a bachelor's in criminal justice, a cybersecurity diploma, and the CompTIA A+ certification, they were immediately interested in hiring me. I usually expect the turnaround from public agencies to be somewhere along the two- month mark from the time of application to the time they reach back to you, but they reached out to me in just two weeks! I think my resume really resonated with them. I learned later that I was the only candidate that they had because once they saw my resume, they stopped looking!

At a high level, what does your job as a Digital Evidence Technician encompass? 

I strip the data off of phones so that a forensic examiner can go through them and find evidence. Whenever there is an arrest or if a victim's device is given to us by consent, we go and create a full digital copy of the cell phone. Sometimes that involves breaking passwords through brute force methods or circumventing security features of the phone. We create the perfect digital clone of the phone so the examiner and police officers can go through the evidence. 

So far, are you using what you learned at Lighthouse Labs now on the job?

In a broad scope, yes. This is a bit different than what digital security looks like because I'm not actively worrying about attackers trying to get into the network, but the understanding of technology, the appreciation of security, and the adherence to the law transfer to this job, especially the concept of chain-of-custody, which is taught in the bootcamp.  Almost everything that I do has to be sanctioned by a warrant. For instance, if I am digitally copying a phone, I may only be able to digitally copy the phone from X date to Y date, or I can't touch certain apps or features. I have to be very thorough about what I'm doing because if you circumvent the warrant, the case goes out the window. A lot of the legal aspects were covered in the bootcamp, like the chain of custody. 

What’s the next rung on the cybersecurity career ladder that you’re looking to get to?

Within my department, I can go from this technician role to an examiner role. As an examiner, my function becomes not only the extraction of data but also the selection of data that is pertinent to a case. Often that’s done by having the original investigator of the case come in and choose their own data set. The issue becomes that some data, if you don't have the training, is impossible to read. For instance, we would never ask an investigator off the street to come in and understand geolocation data because the way phones store geolocation data is not human- readable. We would use our examiners for that. 

It looks like there is some vested interest from the organization to get me there, so I'm excited! With public jobs, once you're in the door you can jump between departments and other parts of the organization. The hardest part is getting into the door.

At this point in your tech career, was Lighthouse Labs worth it for you?

At the end of the day, Lighthouse Labs was worth it because I know more about working in cybersecurity since doing the bootcamp. I do have some qualms that the course was sometimes too vague and that it took me so long to land my first cyber role, but I learned I had to manage my expectations. 

What is your advice to incoming bootcamp students on how to make the most of the Lighthouse Labs experience? Anything you wish you knew before day one of the bootcamp?

Don't think because the cybersecurity opportunities seem to be in abundance finding a job is easy. It is far harder to find a job than it was to do the bootcamp. My advice to any student coming in is: Don't rely on the diploma to get you a job. Leverage your experience and knowledge to get the certifications, which are globally recognized!

Find out more and read Lighthouse Labs reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Lighthouse Labs.

About The Author

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps. With a background in writing, teaching, and social media management, Jess plays a pivotal role in helping Course Report readers make informed decisions about their educational journey.

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