ISE® Success Stories

Jhanina Santiago
2017 Marci McCarthy Cybersecurity Certification Scholarship Recipient

My passion for information technology started in high school and continued on through my college years—I possess a Bachelor’s in Computer Studies from University of Maryland University College and a Certificate of Graduate Studies in Cybersecurity and Intelligence from Salve Regina University. Cybersecurity specifically interests me because of the integration of everyday appliances into the internet (IoT).

For eight years I cultivated a career in Sales/Recruiting/Human Resources before stepping away to be a stay-at-home mother. During that time, I witnessed the rapid evolution of technology and its pervasiveness in our daily lives. The internet links us to everything and everyone now—from smartphones to autonomous cars, these advancements are equal parts impressive, intriguing, and dangerous. Witnessing these developments, I felt a pull toward gaining more knowledge to protect myself, my family, and others from the risks that inevitably result from this modern growth. That, I think, was the turning point that compelled me to dive into the cybersecurity industry.

In order to insert myself into the industry, I started seeking out organizations that could help me gain knowledge, learn skills, and build up my network. I initially began in Cyberjutsu, but through them was offered an opportunity to attend one of the ICMCP conferences. When I attended, I was able to meet many of the ICMCP founders and learn more about their organization. In fact, one of the founders recognized me from an encounter we had a year prior while I was at a University event. ICMCP, however, really drew me because of their public endeavors to both encourage diversity and equality for women in the workforce. Those are both personally relevant issues for me in my career, so I volunteered with them for a year as Volunteer Coordinator.

As you can probably assume, I learned about The Marci McCarthy Cybersecurity Certification Scholarship Program through my involvement with ICMCP—more specifically, from their volunteer newsletter. The scholarship sounded like an excellent route toward furthering my opportunities in the industry. Security certifications can be very expensive to gain, and as a result I was thrilled when I was announced as a scholarship winner.

I was also awarded the opportunity to take part in a 7-week, hands-on keyboard training program with Hack Educate, and after through The Marci McCarthy Cybersecurity Certification Scholarship was able to acquire my Security+ certification. Hack Educate kept me on board as a Cybersecurity Teaching Assistant/Career Transition Manager, which has opened the doors up to a significant amount of networking, education, and boundless other opportunities. It has been incredibly valuable to have that foundation within the cybersecurity space.

To those out there who would like to enter into a cybersecurity field and apply to the Marci McCarthy Cybersecurity Certification Scholarship Program, I would say to them: you have to give in order to receive. It is incredibly important to support organizations like ICMCP and give them some of your time and dedication to show the world your passion for cybersecurity while learning the skills you need to advance in the industry. Building up your skills, your knowledge, and your network by volunteering with such organizations will show them—and future employers—that you are dedicated to making a shift into the industry and changing your career.

My goal is to one day be part of an incident response team. I would like to work with a company to assist them in crucial moments where they need to respond to crises and mitigate the resulting issues as efficiently and safely as possible. For now, I am looking forward to starting a role as a Cybersecurity Analyst come the new year. I am excited to take my first solid steps into the industry—all thanks to opportunities such as the Marci McCarthy Cybersecurity Certification Scholarship Program!