Alumni Spotlight

How This US Veteran Launched a Cybersecurity Career after Eleven Fifty Academy

By Jess Feldman
Last updated on December 8, 2021

Michael Gates had always wanted to work in cybersecurity, but he found that companies were looking for specific cybersecurity certifications on his resumé. Thanks to his veteran’s benefits, Michael was able to enroll at Eleven Fifty Academy without any out-of-pocket tuition! And after training for three months at the online Cybersecurity bootcamp, Eleven Fifty Academy had prepared Michael for several certifications and an interview with SMC. Learn about Michael’s new job as a Cybersecurity Analyst and his advice for other military veterans making this career change. 

What inspired you to get into cybersecurity?

Working in cybersecurity is something I have wanted to do since I was 14 years old. I tried to pivot into the industry two years into my military service, but was unable to. When I was released from the military with an honorable discharge, I began looking for entry-level roles in cybersecurity. Although I had a Cyber Operations degree from Excelsior College, I still needed cybersecurity certifications to qualify for cybersecurity jobs. I had a job offer for a role in IT at a help desk, but Eleven Fifty Academy came on my radar through a military organization. When I learned that the cybersecurity bootcamp wouldn't cost me anything out-of-pocket, I was on board.

What was the Eleven Fifty Academy application process like for you?

I appreciated the advisors at Eleven Fifty Academy. They patiently supported me as I navigated the enrollment process. There was a technical challenge that helped gauge your cybersecurity knowledge before the class started. This technical challenge was accessible for beginners, though. The most critical factor to getting into Eleven Fifty Academy is making sure you are a hard worker and willing to work with others. 

Because you have a background in the military, were you able to use any veterans benefits? 

Coming into the bootcamp, I had access to both the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill. I ended up using the Post-9/11 GI Bill to cover my Eleven Fifty Academy tuition. The process of claiming my benefits wasn’t too complicated. It involved calling the V.A., filling out online forms, and completing some paperwork. 

What was a typical day like in Eleven Fifty Academy's online cybersecurity bootcamp

Eleven Fifty Academy stuffs a lot of information into this three-month bootcamp! Monday through Friday, we would start with a Kahoot! game to assess our knowledge on a particular topic. Then, we would dive into our book, going through each chapter together. We would take quizzes, complete coursework, and even teach a slide or two ourselves. At the end of the day, we would play another Kahoot!, take a quiz, and prepare for our homework. Homework was usually preparing for the next day’s lesson or doing some small project. There was a lot of information packed into each day, and the workload involved some spillover into the weekends. 

We had a Slack channel, so we would stay in contact with each other all the time even though the bootcamp was online. Whether we needed help with homework or personal projects, we could log onto Slack, and usually somebody was there. Some of the students would stay online 24/7! To this day, I’m still in contact with someone from my cohort that I now work alongside — we’re actually still using our Eleven Fifty Academy Slack channel today.

Who were your cybersecurity instructors at the bootcamp?

At the top level, Eleven Fifty employs people with a lot of experience, and our instructors included folks who have recently graduated from the bootcamp. There were moments throughout the course when a student would ask a real-world scenario question, and the teacher, being a recent graduate, would have to get back to us. On the other hand, having recent grads teaching us helped us prepare for the cybersecurity certification exams, since they had just completed them.

What did you learn in the cybersecurity bootcamp?

We started with content that taught to the CompTIA A+ exam to get a baseline and then moved into CompTIA Network+ content. We explored the CIA triad (Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability) along with networking routers. From there, if we passed our final exam and got our Network+ certification, we moved into CompTIA Security+, where things intensified. We learned how to hack by shifting from a blue team SOC analyst mindset to a red team mindset of taking advantage of vulnerabilities in a weak network. After that section, we took our exam for the CompTIA Security+ certification. Once we received our Security+ certification, we moved into TryHackMe, where you can earn certifications as you go along in the program. 

Did you feel Eleven Fifty Academy prepared you well for these certification exams?

We took our cybersecurity certification exams as we made our way through the bootcamp rather than waiting to take them at the end of the bootcamp. Walking in to take my certification exams, I felt very prepared by Eleven Fifty Academy. Of course, once you’re taking the exam, you start having doubts about what you know, but you would get your test results back and learn that you passed. Many students even aced the exams.

What kinds of projects or labs did you work on at Eleven Fifty Academy?

We worked with TryHackMe on the cybersecurity side. On the networking side, we set up our networks and tested each level. We did scenario training on what to do if you are the Chief Information Security Officer and under attack. 

What was the biggest challenge in your bootcamp journey at Eleven Fifty Academy?

The bootcamp requires ample time, dedication, and energy. By week three, I was feeling burnt out. When you get your certifications along the way, however, you feel re-motivated and back on track. The bootcamp requires will and determination. When I was feeling burnt out, my military background helped me go into a different mode where I could absorb as much as I could and do the best that I could under the circumstances.

How did Eleven Fifty Academy prepare you for the job hunt? 

The career services are what sold me on Eleven Fifty Academy! Whether you’re a student or an alum, you can contact Eleven Fifty’s career advisors. Eleven Fifty Academy has a group of employers that it works with constantly, so there's a higher than average chance of landing a job at one of those places. Plus, the career advisors make sure to send you job opportunities. I applied to four or five different jobs before my career advisor told me about a meeting between SMC and Eleven Fifty. I showed up to that meeting, and that's how I got hired.

Congrats on landing a job as a Cyber Security Analyst at SMC! How did you get the job? 

SMC stands for Sintered Metal Corporation and we manufacture machine parts. The company has a headquarters in Noblesville, Indiana, and is setting up a new SOC team. 

I interviewed with SMC for about two weeks after meeting them through Eleven Fifty Academy. SMC called me to learn more about me and find out if I could work well on a team. After this call, I realized that I wanted to work for SMC, so when Eleven Fifty told me about their meeting, I showed up already knowing as much as I could about SMC. It worked out well and the interviews felt natural. SMC offered me the Cyber Security Analyst job about three weeks later. 

What kinds of projects are you working on now?

We are SMC’s Security Operation Center team (SOC), so overall we are working on simplifying security for the company. As we learn our part on the team, we are trying to make things as secure and business-friendly as possible.

Are you using everything that you learned at Eleven Fifty Academy now on the job? 

When I started at SMC, I was using my knowledge from the two certifications I earned while at Eleven Fifty Academy. I’m still relying on that knowledge, but also using other programs now that are brand new to me. I've gotten better at learning new tools by building off of my Eleven Fifty knowledge and experimenting. 

What is your advice for other military veterans thinking of making a career change into cybersecurity? 

If you have ten or more years in the military, you should take a step back and consider finishing your time. If you decide to pursue another pathway, Eleven Fifty Academy is a great option, especially if you live in and around the Indianapolis area. The bootcamp embodies the same type of mentality that the military represents. The bootcamp may be free for veterans, too, because they’ve put in their time and earned their veterans benefits. Doing the cybersecurity bootcamp is a great way to get your cybersecurity certifications. Even if you don't land a cybersecurity job right after bootcamp graduation, having the certifications will help you get an IT help desk job which can later lead to cybersecurity.

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

About The Author

Jess is the Content Manager for Course Report as well as a writer and poet. As a lifelong learner, Jess is passionate about education, and loves learning and sharing content about tech bootcamps. Jess received a M.F.A. in Writing from the University of New Hampshire, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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