Bismar Montano dreamed of a more challenging career, but wasn’t sure how he could make a career change while working his full-time warehouse job. He also knew he didn’t want to code all day long, so Bismar was excited to find the cybersecurity career path. Bismar shares his experience as a student in Springboard’s online, self-paced Cyber Security Track and how his mentor at Springboard is helping him build the confidence to successfully ace this career change. Plus, Bismar shares his tips for others hoping to juggle a full-time job and a bootcamp!
What inspired you to get into cybersecurity?
I graduated from college back in 2014 and worked for a tech company out in Venice, California as a Digital Content Specialist. I was working with social media and content management, primarily on YouTube. When my entire team was laid off, I moved to Portland, Oregon and started working in a warehouse to pay my bills. I finally reached the point where I wanted something more.
I had been trying to learn to code and it just wasn't clicking, so I decided to check out what other options existed in tech. I found a coach who was a programmer, and he talked about Springboard. I decided to check it out and saw the Cyber Security Career Track, and I just decided to jump on board.
Did you research any other cybersecurity bootcamps before choosing Springboard?
I did research other programs in cyber security. I was originally looking for in-person cyber security bootcamps in Portland, but a combination of my full-time job and the pandemic made that impossible. A self-paced program was the best option for me.
Compared to other programs, the structure of Springboard and the career prep aspect caught my eye. Springboard offers a money-back guarantee if you don't land a job within a certain amount of time, too! Other bootcamps didn't offer that job guarantee; the money-back guarantee made me believe that Springboard has a lot of faith in their program.
The mentors were another reason why I applied to Springboard — it's helpful to have an expert I can talk to and gain more depth into the course. Many other bootcamps didn't offer mentorship; they may have tutors but not that one-on-one experience with a mentor.
What was the Springboard cyber security application process like for you?
There were many phone calls between the initial interview process and enrolling. There was an initial questionnaire that asked some basic cybersecurity questions to assess whether I was a good fit and to gauge my logical thinking. There was a formal interview with questions about my interests and what inspired me to apply for this career track over others.
What is your goal in taking this Springboard cyber security bootcamp?
I'm switching careers. I want to do something challenging and interesting, and I'm not finding warehouse work challenging enough at this point. In going through the course so far, I've found that cybersecurity was the best track I could have chosen because I love everything about it. I'm learning so much. At the end of the course, I want to switch my career into cybersecurity.
How have you paid for the bootcamp tuition?
I chose a financing option and took out a loan through Ascent (formerly Skills Fund). It’s a deferred loan, and so far, it's been great. Plus, there’s always the money-back guarantee offered by Springboard. Assuming I meet all the requirements, if I don't get a job after the program, I get my money back.
How are you balancing a full-time job and this self-paced bootcamp?
I work 10-hour night shifts, four days each week, and I'm dedicating my free time to Springboard. My full-time job and schoolwork are all I do now! There are times when I feel stretched juggling the bootcamp and a full-time job, but my three-day weekend gives me some breathing room to get coursework done and take care of my personal life as well. I want to put in as much time as I can into the course because it's a career I want to do long-term.
When I finish my night shift at work, I go to sleep, wake up the next day before noon, and dive right into the course. For me, it's a lot of keeping track and going through the program whenever I can, which amounts to about 20 to 30 hours of coursework each week. I'm taking my time with the course because I don't want to rush it, and it does take me a little longer to complete things.
Are you finding the self-paced structure fits well with how you learn?
I've learned so much! I was a little skeptical initially, just because I've always found that I'm a hands-on learner. I would have liked to have been in a physical classroom, but the self-paced learning and course structure is working for me. Springboard introduces you to a topic and then reintroduces it in detail later on, which I find helpful. For instance, I had no idea how intricate the wiring was for cyber security, at least for networks. The wires have a particular rating in terms of how much bandwidth they can handle. From there, I’m learning about traffic-shaping and how to set up a firewall to dedicate more bandwidth to certain things. The information can be overwhelming, but at the same time, I'm having a wonderful time with the course.
We also have very hands-on, virtual labs with Springboard’s partner Infosec Learning that bring everything together. I find that the labs are the best — I get to take everything I've been learning up to that point, apply it, and go through the process of doing it myself.
Which cyber security certifications is Springboard preparing you for?
The course is preparing us for the CompTIA Security+ exam. We are also covering a lot of Network+ material. By doing this course, you can get your Security+ and your Network+ certification, which are two similarly structured exams. I’ve heard it’s a good idea to take those exams before I finish the bootcamp. Once I'm feeling more prepared, and closer to the end of the bootcamp, it's something I should do. Becoming certified by the end of the bootcamp will make me more employable.
Who is your mentor at Springboard?
It's been a great experience having a mentor in the program! I am fortunate because I'm working under the curriculum designer of the course: Mark Adams. It's been a great experience speaking with Mark because he can provide a lot more clarity on what I’m learning. He's been able to guide me where I might fall short regarding course material and the projects we do. I meet with my mentor once a week over a video call, and we send a lot of emails back and forth between our weekly meetings. If I hit a roadblock, he's always there, and I can reach out to him if I have any questions.
What kinds of projects have you worked on at Springboard?
My most recent favorite project involved designing our own lab. We went through assessing what kind of equipment we would need, how we would go about obtaining it, etc. I had to do research to see what worked best with my budget and what I wished to accomplish within the lab — it was an enjoyable project to work on.
The project I struggled with the most had to do with project management. It required taking a decent-sized company and updating their computer equipment from Windows 7 to Windows 10. After speaking with my mentor, I learned that this project was a real scenario he worked through! Managing that project from beginning to end was fascinating for him. It was also an excellent experience for me to see the difference between a small-scale project and a large-scale project in cyber security.
Since you're doing a remote bootcamp, how do you interact with your classmates?
We have the option to work with other students when we want to. We have Slack channels we can check in on and toss out a question to see if anybody knows the answer. That option is there; I'm just not taking full advantage of it right now because my work schedule makes it a little difficult to interact with my cohort.
How is Springboard preparing you for the job hunt?
So far, I’ve spoken with a career counselor, and our initial meeting gave me a good foundation and something to work towards. She also helped me update my LinkedIn profile so it is now more cyber security-focused. All of the support we Springboard students have made me realize that I chose the right program.
Once I’m further in the course, I’ll start getting deeper into career preparation. As you progress through the course, you gain more insight into how to move your career forward. For example, we learned how to develop our elevator pitch. Later on in the course, there's a section on career networking. I've always struggled with networking, and I'm excited to learn what the section has to teach me.
What types of cybersecurity jobs are you interested in applying for after you graduate?
My goal is to get a job as a Cybersecurity Analyst, but honestly, I would be happy just getting my foot in the door. Beyond that, I also want to get higher certifications once I start my career in cyber security.
What has been the biggest challenge in your journey to becoming a cyber security professional so far?
Overall, starting the bootcamp was the biggest challenge. I've wanted to make this career change for a long time, and I wish I had done it a lot sooner. I honestly love every minute of being in the bootcamp, from the course materials to the projects we do to working with my mentor. It's been such a great experience overall — I just wish I'd done it so much sooner!
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