Lighthouse Labs students can expect wraparound support as they make their way through the programs and into tech careers. Cyber Security Mentor, Kimberley Dray and Senior Student Success Coordinator, Kyla Wills take us on a deep dive of Lighthouse Labs’ student support services. Find out how mentors provide students with career insights and project assistance, and the Student Success Team buoys students with encouragement and necessary accommodations.
Kimberley: Many of our Cyber Security Bootcamp students come from non-IT backgrounds or are making career changes. The volume of information and work they are exposed to can be quite intense and at times students will feel a little overwhelmed with all the new information. Since students have opportunities to learn from instructors and experience support from mentors who are also from a wide range of cyber security roles and industry, they are obtaining a diversity of knowledge and wealth of experience.
Lighthouse Labs has a long history of offering various tech education programs. Their mentorship development and programming for the Cyber Security Bootcamp has grown out of those years of experience. Cyber Security Bootcamp mentors support all students in the bootcamp program using various Lighthouse Labs developed tools and services.
Being a mentor includes every aspect of a student's support needs, such as:
Multiple mentors are available for direct student support requests based on work and scheduling availability. In addition to the scheduled support, mentors, students, and program administrators we have school communication channels where ad-hoc inquiry, support, and knowledge sharing occurs on a regular basis.
Who are the mentors at Lighthouse Labs?
Kimberley: Most mentors support the program while also having full-time jobs.
As a mentor of career-changers, I can bring my personal experience and empathy when I connect with our students. Over the past decade, my career path has included high school IT teacher, networking instructor and network administrator, desktop and systems administrator, IT manager, technical analyst/information security, and senior cybersecurity analyst. Each role and opportunity evolved from continued education, training, and inherent experience protecting and defending various organizations’ people, data and technology. The evolution of cybersecurity roles and responsibilities across an organization has changed to include not only the technology functions but new opportunities for many with little or no technology background and can include a wide range of business, risk and strategic functions.
How is a Mentor different from an Instructor at Lighthouse Labs?
Kimberley: Instructors are primarily responsible for holding virtual class sessions to cover and review curriculum content. This gives students opportunities to connect with them about their assignments and projects.
Mentors, on the other hand, connect to individual student requests for support. We are available for inquiry and assistance with completion of this work outside of the official class time in an assistive homework/tutor-like means.
What kinds of roadblocks do students come to you for help with during the bootcamp?
Kimberley: With some students new to IT or career changers, they have different levels of exposure, experience, and potential interest in different aspects of the cybersecurity field, tools and activities. Naturally with the broad range of cybersecurity job roles, specializations and streams, no one can be a subject matter expert in all domains, even those of us who have been in the industry for a long time. The key is the ability to build a foundation across multiple cybersecurity areas and then hone in on areas where you have interest or passion and ultimately continue to build upon your strengths, interests, and opportunities.
Due to this, there are days or weeks when students will find the activities and materials more challenging or perhaps have familiarity gaps with content. Some modules and activities can be quite easy one week and more challenging in others. I have many years’ experience teaching and facilitating both high school students and adults, so whenever possible I apply different learning strategies and mechanisms based on student’s learning preferences and style.
How often do mentors meet with students?
Kimberley: All students have access to mentors with industry experience, but the hours vary depending on the program. Depending on the number of students in the cohort, the general availability of all mentors, and my personal work schedule, my commitment as a mentor can be anywhere from 4-15 hours per week. While classes are held midday Eastern Standard Time, I live on the West coast, so my mentoring availability typically occurs later in the evenings for most students.
As I am typically on duty later in the evenings, many students have already had a long day so I have found that sometimes giving students the opportunity to simply talk about their bootcamp experience can give them the much-needed brain break to tackle the challenge that brought them there. The most successful of these experiences have been when students are given the opportunity to consider how far they have come, how much they have learned and encouragement that they know more than they realize and are on the right path. So often it’s the very small nudges that provide just enough to help students get through their challenge on their own. These are much needed skills in our industry so learning to push through any self-doubt or perhaps collaborate on some of the gaps, as you would with workplace teams, are vital to their success.
Can students and graduates reach out to mentors whenever they need support?
Kimberley: There currently is no direct matching of students to mentor. Through the Lighthouse Labs platform, students reach out for assistance or to talk to a mentor on duty. The service will assign the request to those mentors who are available. The first mentor to claim the request will connect via video conferencing where all the tools are available for video, audio and screen sharing as needed.
I’ve always offered extra support to students as needed, especially when students want to learn more about what we discussed and perhaps want continued professional connection. I anticipate that mentors available earlier in the day may have more opportunities for student connection during the peak hours of their daily work.
Casual interaction and engagement is available all the time using a common instant messaging and communication toolkit. Depending on my work and life schedule, I may be available more often on some weeks than others for engagement outside of my regular mentoring schedule. I encourage students and grads to connect via LinkedIn, join their local information security certification chapters, etc. as networking is also a big part of career growth.
As a mentor who works in cyber security, what do you think of the students who graduate from Lighthouse Labs? Would you hire them?
Week to week, it is amazing to see how each student’s knowledge evolves. Although I am not mentoring during peak times of the day, I still check in on the daily class recordings where I not only review the day’s content but acquire some perspective on the types of questions or challenges students are experiencing. This gives me an idea of where they are on their path. Demo Days and Presentations from students have been so impressive with a wide range of topics, including some very in-depth technical demos. Graduates of this cyber security program would be a welcomed addition to any IT/cyber security team.
How do Lighthouse Labs students interact with the Student Success team?
Kyla: Student Success Coordinators (SSCs) are available to students from day one of the bootcamp. We host the Day 1 lecture, providing students with all the important information they will need to be successful in the program, including how and when they can communicate with us. Our regular communication with students is done via Discord, where they can access us between 8am EST and 5pm PST Mon-Fri. Students can also access us via email for non day-to-day matters.
"Our ultimate goal at Lighthouse Labs is to see each student successfully complete the program and feel confident moving on to a job in this field. To reach this goal we ensure that each student is given the support they need throughout the program." Kyla Wills, Sr. Student Success Coordinator
Our students come from all backgrounds, so some need more support than others, but we strive to meet each student’s unique needs. We check student progress on a daily basis and offer many avenues for feedback, regarding: lectures, instructors, mentors, content, and even about the support we offer. These tools provide us with the insight we need to offer proactive and reactive solutions to any problems that may arise.
Our work is challenging, requires endless amounts of empathy and patience, but is also extremely rewarding. We can proudly say we have many examples of student success stories. We have graduated students going through cancer treatments, students who have lost a loved one during the program, mothers on maternity leave, students who have had to keep part-time jobs to make ends meet, and the list goes on.
The Student Success Team has been trained to support students in dealing with the pressures of these programs, such as:
Much of what we do is remind students of their capabilities and motivate them to keep moving forward. The programs can make students critical of themselves and their abilities. Their self-confidence becomes fogged by the stress of the program and we are here to help them see clearly, to remind them of the obstacles they had to overcome to be admitted into the program, the reason why they decided to take the program in the first place, and the benefits they will reap upon completion.
For accommodations needs, we refer them to our accommodations specialist and for technical support we connect them with our team of mentors and for career support we connect them with our career services team.
Does the Student Success Team collaborate with Mentors and Instructors?
Kyla: Very much so! We work as a team to ensure students are receiving the best possible support. Keeping open lines of communication between the mentors, instructors, and the SSCs is key to this success. When we are dealing with a student who is struggling, we investigate with instructors and mentors to have a clear understanding of the experience they have had thus far. The instructor and mentor team also reaches out to us directly when they feel a student is struggling and may need extra help.
Does the Student Success Team collaborate with Career Services at Lighthouse Labs, too?
Kyla: At Lighthouse Labs, all of our teams collaborate to ensure students receive well-rounded support from admissions to graduation. Career Services is introduced to students on Day 1 and their team is available to students throughout the program. Their role becomes more prominent in Week 8 of the bootcamp when they start meeting with students more regularly, guiding them in resume writing, and preparing for interviews. They also have a big role post graduation in helping place the graduates in jobs within their field. As SSCs, we pass on important information regarding student needs to the Career Services team when necessary.
What is your advice for Lighthouse Labs students on how to combat imposter syndrome?
I like to remind students of all the steps they had to take to be admitted to our programs — not everyone who applies makes it in. If you made it in, then you are here because you have the capability to be here. Feeling unsure and a bit lost or even overwhelmed is normal and is part of the process. We keep you at the edge of your comfort zone because that’s where you grow. Remember why you are here and what the outcome will be on the other end. A bootcamp can be life changing.
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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