DECEMBER 4, 2020 — Forbes Magazine cites cybersecurity as one of the booming industries of 2020. The prospect of a challenging and good-paying career has drawn students all the way from Hawaii to be part of UTSA’s highly respected cybersecurity program. UTSA’s research leadership with the Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute and San Antonio’s growing emergence as a cybersecurity think tank add to making the university a very attractive school to attend. And now, some Roadrunners are ensuring that they and their peers can take the extra step to getting hired in their industry: gaining a critical credential.
A group of students, led by graduating senior Chandler Santos, established UTSA’s first CompTIA organization in spring 2020. Santos is also the chapter president. CompTIA offers three IT certifications, including Security+, which is considered a global benchmark for best practices in IT network and operational security.
Cybersecurity major Brandon Bonnell is one of the founding CompTIA chapter members and is now the organization’s secretary. He said the CompTIA group provides an important service for cybersecurity students. Bonnell feels getting a Security+ certificate is as essential for obtaining and advanced position as having a degree.
Graduating students who land jobs the quickest, according to Bonnell, have one trend in common: having at least one certification under their belt. “More important,” he said, “they have a Security+ certification, which is a certification our chapter helps UTSA members earn.”
Ryenn White, another cybersecurity major, is part of a growing number of young women pursuing a career in the industry. White joined CompTIA over the summer because she was looking for a community of students who shared her passion for cybersecurity along with an outlet to prepare for life after college.
“Prior to creating the chapter, there was nothing like this at UTSA,” said White. “There was a cybersecurity chapter but nothing to help us get certifications or connections and information we need to progress our careers. So that’s really what inspired me to join the chapter.”
In addition to certification, CompTIA also connects students with the college cybersecurity competition circuit that range from trying to hack a system to cyber defense. These competitions give CompTIA members valuable experience to solve cybersecurity problems that prepare them for the job force and stand out on a résumé.
“There is a gap between what we learn in class and the tangible learning that we have to do in order to prepare ourselves for a career,” said White. “I now do the competitions all the time. They’re really exciting and the best way that I’ve found to learn and utilize the skills that you’ve learned in school.”
Another opportunity White gained through CompTIA is becoming the club’s marketing officer, which gave her a leading role in helping to organize RowdyCon, which she says is UTSA’s first cybersecurity conference. The virtual event will take place all day on Saturday, December 5, and feature a wide range of leading cybersecurity panelists.
“If students are unsure of which area of cybersecurity they want to focus, the conference can help them home in on what really interests them,” said White.
Whether its RowdyCon, cybersecurity competitions or Security+ certification, the mission of CompTIA founders is getting UTSA’s cybersecurity alumni employed. It’s a purpose that has resonated with students. In its short time the organization already has more than 200 members and its leadership expected increasing numbers for the spring semester.
“We are the fastest-growing registered student organization at UTSA,” said Santos. “But our true accomplishment is providing our members with top tier resources, exclusive chats with industry leaders, and awesome virtual extracurricular activities all outside their studies.”
“Essentially the dream is to get everyone a job when they graduate and to continue representing the excellence of UTSA’s cybersecurity program in our industry,” said Bonnell.
Additional UTSA CompTIA officers are Adam Kissee, vice president; Steven Moghadam, treasurer; Christopher Bates, marketing; and Austin Ramos, outreach.
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