I had an excellent conversation with Nicole Mendoza – an alumna of the SacCARES (Sacramento Cares) Cyber Security Accelerator from our Project Ares partners at Inteligenca. We discussed her cyber security learning journey that turned the COVID crisis into a time of opportunity.

Giuseppe Scalamogna from Project Ares and Nicole Mendoza talk about pursuing a cyber security education.

Giuseppe Scalamogna from Project Ares and Nicole Mendoza talk about pursuing a cyber security education.

Nicole, what was the focus of the Sacramento Cares course that you participated in?

I was in the prep class that they were doing for CompTIA’s IT Fundamentals certification. Project Ares was part of the learning supplements used for that course.

Did you have a lot of cyber security or computer science experience before getting started?

No, I hadn’t done anything with cyber security or computer sciences at all. I got into the SacCARES program because I was looking for a change. I had to quit my job during COVID and was stuck in lockdown. It was the perfect opportunity to learn something new, a skill that I could use moving forward.

How did you hear the Sacramento Cares programs?

A news article I read mentioned how Sacramento was using its COVID supplement funds and that included job training programs. I applied to one program but is was full. They recommended Carmen Marsh’s program at Inteligenca, so I applied and was accepted.

Was there something that drew you to studying computer science?

I didn’t know a lot about it before joining the first program I was in with Inteligenca. Once I began to understand what cyber security means — what is going on in the background of our everyday lives on the Internet and what bad people are doing – it was fascinating. And scary.

I think it’s important that people have at least a little bit of knowledge about what’s going on so they can protect themselves.

What’s next as you continue planning your future learning goals?

I am working to find a fit of what might be the best reflection of who I am, what I can do, and what I’m passionate about.

I just had a meeting with one of my mentors from the program. We talked about finding the right path — that it is important to understand what you really want to do and then align that to a job which reflects those details.

My next step will most likely be a prep course for my Network certification. I believe that will give me a good basis for the next jobs that I want to get into.

What words of advice would you give to someone who wanted to study cyber security but might be nervous about taking the leap?

I suggest they find somebody they know or a community or a website forum and start asking questions. I think it’s a good first step to start getting some relevant information.

One of the most awesome things about the cyber security and tech community is that people are so willing to help. They’re welcoming and willing to share. Whenever I asked a question, it seemed like I got recommendations of like 5 articles and 4 people on Twitter to check out for more information.

That’s something I’ve never experienced in other professional communities. The people in the technology community are willing to be as helpful as they possibly can. It is super rad.

You recently used Project Ares again. What did you think of it compared to when you were using it in your course?

I like some of the changes that have been made. It’s more user friendly, especially for people like me who might not know everything about how to arrive at the end results.

I was playing through a Linux Basics Battle Room, and it was rewarding to see what I remembered from my classes but I also used the hints to get tips when I needed them.

The Project Ares team appreciates all we learn from our students.

We’re excited by their passion, drive, and desire to be successful! 

Thank you Nicole, and best of success in your cybersecurity career journey.

Check out other success stories where we continue to explore what inspires and motivates Project Ares students and why cybersecurity is important to them.