Alumni Spotlight

How Liz Went From Merchandising to Cybersecurity

Jess Feldman

Written By Jess Feldman

Last updated on November 18, 2022

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After a few years of working in fashion merchandising, Liz Kim realized she wasn’t feeling fulfilled by her career. After seeing her friends launch tech careers after attending bootcamps, Liz chose the online Cybersecurity bootcamp at DigitalCrafts because she appreciated the live teaching style. Now a SOC Associate for a cybersecurity consulting company and a Cybersecurity Teaching Assistant at DigitalCrafts, Liz gets real about what it took to make a successful career change and how DigitalCrafts helped her pursue a new career path. 

What inspired you to launch a career in cybersecurity?

After graduating from the University of Georgia with a fashion merchandising degree, I worked as an Operations Manager for a local boutique shoe company in Atlanta, Georgia. I thought fashion was what I wanted to do, but once I got into the industry, I realized it wasn’t for me. I didn’t see any purpose in the work, and it wasn’t fulfilling. After a couple of years, I ended up quitting my job with nothing lined up. That was super scary, and luckily I had a great partner supporting me through that time.

I started thinking about what I enjoyed, and I’ve always been interested in computers. I built my first gaming computer in 2017. I’ve always loved tinkering with the hardware of computers, so I decided to look at a career that had something to do with that. I started Googling bootcamps since a lot of my friends attended them even after college and it turned out to be successful for them. I saw cybersecurity while I was looking through classes and thought it sounded cool. I fell down a rabbit hole of learning about cybersecurity and learned that I didn't need to know how to code to work in cyber. 

There are so many cybersecurity bootcamps out there — what sets DigitalCrafts apart from the rest?

I came across DigitalCrafts first because they were headquartered in Atlanta. I did a lot of research while I looked at all the cybersecurity courses and DigitalCrafts offered live teaching. A lot of the other bootcamps didn’t seem to offer that — they were video-led or independent work based on video tutorials, and I didn’t want to do that. 

DigitalCrafts also offers lifetime support to its graduates, and that stood out to me. I reached out to the admissions team, and they were very responsive and helpful. They even had an online meet-and-greet with the instructor for the cybersecurity bootcamp. I attended that and thought he was cool, so I was sold.

What was the cybersecurity bootcamp application process like at DigitalCrafts? 

There was a phone interview that was simple and quick. Basically, they wanted to understand why I was interested in the bootcamp.

Did you have to complete any pre-work?

There is a pre-work course that covers the basics of hardware and software, virtualization, working on the commandline, and cryptography. It’s a great introduction to what cybersecurity is and what to expect in the course. I am now a TA for the upcoming cybersecurity cohort, and I was going through the pre-work with some students and it was very nostalgic for me! 

Do you recommend doing self-teaching before applying to DigitalCrafts’ cybersecurity bootcamp?

I would highly recommend doing the research before going to the bootcamp and learning the basics of computer hardware components. I think that’s helpful because if you're completely new, it’s difficult to understand what’s going on when the class starts.

Did you receive any scholarships from DigitalCrafts?

I got a You Belong in Tech Scholarship from DigitalCrafts, and for the rest of the tuition, I chose financing through their partner, Climb Credit

Now that you’ve graduated from DigitalCrafts, was the bootcamp tuition worth it for you?

I’m so happy I took this bootcamp. DigitalCrafts is on the pricier side, but the quality of the program is worth it. I had some hesitations at first because of the price, but it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I definitely think it’s worth it. 

What was a typical day like in the online cybersecurity bootcamp

I took the full-time course and it started at 10:00 AM and ended around 4:00 PM. There were a bunch of breaks during the day, so it was very doable. Even though we were on a Zoom call for hours, we got an hour for lunch and plenty of other breaks.

Every day, the instructor goes through PowerPoint slides while demoing how to do certain things like installing virtual machines or exploring firewalls and different tools like Splunk and Nessus. We even learned penetration testing. It was fun and helpful because many of the things we learned about the tools are what I see now in my workplace!

Did you learn how to code in this cybersecurity bootcamp?

The curriculum didn’t include Python, but a lot of the students were interested in getting to know how Python works. They wanted to learn a few different lines and commands, so our instructor created a couple of days where we went over Python for cybersecurity.

Did DigitalCrafts prepare you for any cybersecurity certifications?

The DigitalCrafts cybersecurity curriculum goes hand-in-hand with the CompTIA Security+ certification and they give you a voucher to take the exam at the end of the bootcamp. I haven’t taken the Security+ exam yet, but I plan to within the next couple of months.

What were your instructors like at DigitalCrafts?

My instructor’s name is Gareth, and he’s so great. He worked a lot of his career in the IT industry and then switched over to cybersecurity. He’s been leading a lot of bootcamps and training courses over the last couple of years — I believe he’s been in the industry for over 20 years.

Starting this fall, I’ll be working alongside Gareth as a TA for the part-time cybersecurity bootcamp. As a TA, I’ll be helping maintain the classroom and answering questions students might have. I’ll also post resources, helpful videos, tips, and guides on how to do things. 

Since this is an online bootcamp, did you feel connected to your cohort?

Yes, a hundred percent. My class had nine people so it was small. Even though we were all in different states, we were on a Zoom call with our cameras on. That’s one of the requirements that DigitalCrafts has. It made it easy to get to know everyone, and we would talk after class about the course and what was confusing us. We also created a Discord channel that we still use to keep in touch and check on each other.

Were the majority of your classmates other career changers?

Yes! Everyone came from a different career path. 

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

Cybersecurity analysts don’t really have projects in the same way UX designers or software developers do — instead we have labs. A lot of our class was downloading VirtualBox and getting our virtual machines set up so we would have a home lab environment. From there, we would install things like Kali Linux, Ubuntu, and different Linux distributions to play around with in class. The instructor would guide us on how to use these things and how to install them to get set up. 

How did DigitalCrafts prepare you for the tech job hunt?

They’re fantastic! We had three consecutive days in the bootcamp where the student success team came in and we weren’t learning about security at all. It was career-focused days where they helped us to build our resumes and LinkedIn profiles so they would look nice. We would screenshare in Zoom to get feedback from the success team and other students while collaborating and helping each other. That was super helpful. 

I also like how they had DigitalCrafts alumni come in as guest speakers to speak with us. They also had industry professionals come in and we could ask questions in a conversational way. That’s how I got connected with one of the industry professionals there and it’s how I got the job I’m in today!

Which tech roles did you feel qualified to apply for?

I got lucky and didn’t have to apply online for a role, but I would be looking at Cybersecurity Analyst, System Administrator, or HelpDesk roles. All of those roles are pretty entry-level. 

How did DigitalCrafts help you land your SOC Associate position at risk3sixty?

Risk3sixty is part of DigitalCrafts' Employer Network, and I think they tend to recruit recent DigitalCrafts graduates when there may be a need. Jessica, the Director of Talent, came in to talk with our cohort and used the last 30 minutes to open the floor to us. She asked us to share information about ourselves, but I was feeling nervous. One of the people from the student success team messaged me on Zoom and told me to say something, so I spoke up. I talked about my background, and why I wanted to be in cybersecurity, then we ended the call. I felt like I sounded dumb, but a week later, we connected on LinkedIn, and she offered me the job!

What was the interview process like for you?

First, there was an informal phone interview, and then there was a group interview with three people that were focused on me. There was also a short, to-the-point case study with a one-page executive summary of a security incident that had happened recently. There was a second interview in a team setting and that was it — I got my offer letter. This all happened in the span of two weeks!

Is risk3sixty requiring you to pass the CompTIA Security+ exam?

They didn’t require it to get the job, but they do expect I’ll get it within the next year or so.

What kinds of projects are you working on now as a SOC Associate?

I am on the SOC 2 Service Line and I work with high-growth tech companies, mainly B2B/SaaS companies. They want us to certify their cybersecurity programs for them to show potential clients. I usually work with one or two clients at a time and assess their whole cybersecurity program. I look at how they enforce their policies for security awareness training within their company. I look at things like how they protect data within their systems and how they protect their networks with various tools. I also look at how they use encryption on their databases while their data is at rest or in transit. I like the job because I’m not just doing one thing. I’m looking at a bunch of different things in cybersecurity.

What are you working towards next on the cybersecurity career ladder?

I’m technically in an analyst role right now — risk3sixty changed the title to associate because it’s more in line with consulting. We are an IT audit and cyber risk advisory firm that offers consulting and auditory services. The next role up would be Senior Analyst or Senior Associate.

At this point in your career change journey, are you happy you went down this route and became a cybersecurity professional?

I’m so grateful to be in this position. I was unsure when I first started looking into bootcamps because I didn’t know if I would like it and be stuck at square one again, hating my job. It wasn’t like that at all, and I love cybersecurity. There are so many different paths in cybersecurity, technical and non-technical roles. I love that there’s always something to learn, and I feel like there’s a purpose to what I’m doing. 

What is your advice to incoming bootcamp students on how to make the most of the DigitalCrafts experience?

If you’re on the fence or unsure if you’ll get a job, I was, too. I had so many fears and doubts, but you never know until you try it. It was worth it for me in the end, and I feel like it was one of the best decisions I ever made. If you’re serious about making a career change, you should take that leap of faith for yourself. You should do it. 

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

Note: DigitalCrafts cannot guarantee employment, salary, or career advancement. The experience of this alumnus may not be representative of all students. Not all programs are available to residents of all states.

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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