After working as an HVAC technician for 11 years, TJ decided it was time for a change. He’s always had a passion for technology, but lacked the hands-on skills he needed to turn that passion into a fulfilling career.
We spoke with TJ to help paint a clearer picture of the boot camp journey, from start to finish. Here’s his story.
What were you doing before UofT SCS Cybersecurity Boot Camp, and what inspired you to enroll?
Before the boot camp, I was working as a technician at a HVAC company, diagnosing and servicing issues in various HVAC systems.
I’ve always been a big believer in having the ability to reinvent yourself at any point in time. I realized that I had hit the ceiling at my old job, and I really wanted to pursue my passion in tech. So I did a lot of research and found information about the boot camp online. There were a ton of options, but what drove me to the program was its hands-on teaching style — that’s how I learn best.
I was also able to get more information about the support system and career services opportunities within the boot camp, and how these are still available even after you finish the program. That pretty much sold me on signing up.
As a learner in the part-time program, how did you make time for coursework while juggling your full-time job?
I was able to structure my full-time work schedule around the boot camp’s courses. If I needed time to work on group assignments, my weekends were completely dedicated to that. I would show up to class an hour or two early to work on stuff beforehand and refresh what I would be tackling that day.
It was all about constantly prioritizing where I wanted my career to go and how important it was to me. That simple reminder allowed me to really focus on what I was being taught in the boot camp.
What was the biggest challenge you faced during your time in the boot camp?
One of the most challenging parts of the boot camp was going deeper into secure coding. While I had some introductory coding knowledge, the boot camp really challenged me to think outside the box and not just go through the normal motions. It forced us to continually challenge ourselves and look at things from new angles. For example, when it came to digital forensics, we were tasked with providing multiple solutions to a single problem. That’s what helps you really learn the most about something.
What are you doing now, and how did the boot camp prepare you for your current role?
Now, I’m a vulnerability management coordinator for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). This role requires an entirely new skill set that I picked up in the boot camp. I did a little bit of coding beforehand, but I didn’t really know anything about vulnerability management.
I draw everything for my current role from one of the projects I completed as part of the boot camp, which focused on penetration testing and sandboxing for malware. Those skills, along with vulnerability assessment and Python scripting, are the same ones I’m using now at work.
How did the boot camp shape your career?
When my class completed the program, it was just off the cuff of COVID-19. We were all kind of shaking, thinking: How will we head into new careers in this climate? But we were all still able to find jobs. It really showed us that the skills we gained in the boot camp are highly transferable. Within three months of completing the course, I was already getting interviews — and I ended up landing a role in my desired field, to further my career aspirations.
Aside from a new job, what is the most valuable thing the boot camp provided for you?
Outside of the hard skills we covered, the ideology of data integrity and the ability to approach problems analytically were very big focal points of the boot camp. It was all completely new territory for me, but — with lots of studying and dedication — I was able to quickly learn things in a way that just stuck. Again, everything that I’m doing now was primarily learned through the boot camp.
Ultimately, the program provided an opportunity for change. I always had the passion for tech. What I didn’t really have were the tools to pursue that passion on a professional level. The boot camp changed that. It armed me with the right tools.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Since this article was originally published, TJ has gone on to a role as an incident response digital forensic analyst at CAE.