Isabella Candido grew up in Delaware, attended college locally, and worked in the healthcare field before eventually shifting gears. Eager for a change of pace, she discovered a new passion that she wanted to pursue professionally and wound up in Alabama.
How did this northern native turn into a southern security specialist? All it took was a dream, a connection, and a boot camp.
From healthcare to technology
Isabella studied medical diagnostics in college and worked as an EMT for about two years.
“I was more interested in the technical side of healthcare and less interested in working with patients,” she said. “I started getting into a routine at work and just wanted to do something different. I began researching cybersecurity, and that led me to the boot camp.”
Isabella enrolled in Penn Cybersecurity Boot Camp in December of 2019 and started classes in February of 2020. When classes got rolling, learners separated into groups, which gave Isabella the chance to start meeting new people and making friends. Then, COVID-19 struck.
In-person classes quickly transitioned to remote learning, which Isabella enjoyed since she always liked online education — plus, she no longer had to drive 45 minutes to class or pay for parking.
“I ended up making completely different friends,” she said. “I had a study group and the situation wound up being totally fine. They definitely helped me get through the course.”
Though the boot camp was part-time, Isabella is glad she wasn’t simultaneously balancing a full-time job. “I knew nothing about technology or cybersecurity going into the program, so I spent over twenty hours a week completing classwork,” she said.
The boot camp’s final project was a “red team versus blue team” situation where one team hacked into a server and recorded everything they did. The blue team then used Wireshark to figure out how the red team attacked the server — and how to mitigate it.
Isabella now works in a blue team operation, so the skills she learned in the boot camp and used during that last project are especially relevant to her current role.
“We touched on a little bit of everything in the boot camp and I liked all of it,” she said. “So at the end, when they asked us what we wanted to go into specifically, I wasn’t sure.”
Landing a job and making a move
Networking was another beneficial aspect of the boot camp — ultimately leading Isabella to her current position.
“One of my classmates got a job in Alabama and told me they were hiring more people, so I applied,” she said. “I was willing to go anywhere.”
As a cybersecurity analyst at Quantum Research International, Isabella is responsible for monitoring networks and flagging suspicious activity. She inspects any issues to figure out what ports outsiders were trying to access and determines whether or not these attacks were successful.
While Isabella was initially working from home, she now goes into the office for regular eight-hour shifts, sits six feet apart from her coworkers, and wears a mask inside of a large room of other cybersecurity pros.
Girls who code and take charge
One similarity between the boot camp and Isabella’s current role — aside from the partial remote work — is the uneven ratio of female coders to male coders.
“There were only [six] women in the boot camp out of about 27 people, and I currently only work with three other women,” she said.
Despite this discrepancy, Isabella works with some women who are higher-ups — the president of Women in Cybersecurity in Alabama even works in her building.
Isabella plans to land a superior role in the future and recently obtained her security + certification. She also hopes to obtain her CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) certification. In the meantime, she’s trying to learn as much as she can in her cybersecurity analyst role. “I want to move abroad for work eventually,” she said. “I know tech is big in Ireland, the UK, and Germany. I like traveling, so I’ll go anywhere.”
Interested in exploring your own tech career goals? Learn more about programs in cybersecurity, data analysis, coding, and fintech at Penn Boot Camps.