Sometimes I don’t feel like getting out of bed. Sometimes I just feel like I’d rather lie there all day just thinking, lapsing in and out of sleep. I could watch the shadows creep along the ceiling. I could listen to the cars drive by. I could write poems in my head, think about where I am now and how I got here. I can imagine what the future may hold. I can dream of where I want to be. But most of all, I can take time to just think.
It seems that too often nowadays, people ask questions and want an answer right away. In school we seem to be asked to regurgitate facts as if it were nothing but a simple call and response where everything is predetermined. In our free time, we turn on the TV and watching something, if it is not interesting, we switch the channel—this continues endlessly until the TV is turned off.
When I was young, people around me would ask “What is it that you would like to be when you grow up?” I told them that I didn’t know. I didn’t know, I hadn’t put in the time to actually think about my life. It was not until around the middle of eleventh grade when I really took the time to think. Before then, I had been failing classes and not giving a care at all. I believed that I would be nothing, that I would fail at anything I tried, I just found all my classes boring. Then, almost as if a light was turned on, I started thinking.
I started evaluating what I liked, what I didn’t, and what that all meant. It started simply: I liked videogames. Then I thought to myself, ”What about videogames do I like?” and that brought me to some other realizations. First and foremost, I liked the idea of cooperation in tasks that otherwise would be quite difficult. Secondly, I thought it was truly amazing that I could play with someone from Ohio, Massachusetts, Maine, California, Canada, the UK, and all around the world all at once.
So I first looked into videogame design, and found that I didn’t like it at all. Now, to jump back a little, I first got into online gaming with an MMO (Runescape) but then moved on to Halo 2 on Xbox LIVE. I joined a forum, and met some really nice people, all of whom had come because they loved Halo and wanted to talk about it. This got me into the video gaming community so to speak, I talked briefly with some members of Bungie (creators of Halo), and my gamertag actually comes from a talk with, at the time, Bungie’s community manager, KP.
Within the gaming community, there were some prominent podcasts that I had started to listen to (Podtacular, Gamer Andy, Sarcastic Gamer, Achievement Junkies, and most notably Major Nelson Radio). Now the last on there, Major Nelson’s podcast, was hosted by Larry Hyrb, the head of Microsoft’s Xbox division. That podcast got me thinking about not being a game developer, but being something else involving video games / video game consoles. I was quite enthused, I became a somewhat active member of the Xbox.com forums, applied for and was accepted to several beta programs for Xbox as well as the Xbox Ambassador program.
So, for a while, that was my goal, work at Microsoft on the Policy and Enforcement team for Xbox LIVE. When the host, Major Nelson, was on vacation, his cohost “e” put out a show with himself and Stepto where they talked about how they got into the industry, and gave some advice to others who wanted to (if you’re interested, the podcast can be found here, jump to around 55 minutes in). I remember playing MW2 at 2 in the morning, just listening to that podcast. It made me start thinking seriously about what I really wanted to do. That podcast, made me stop and think about where my life was going and where I actually wanted it to go. That podcast, and the advice that those two guys gave, helped me make some important choices.
First, I started reading. I read a lot, I read about computers, the internet, and just anything. If I had a question, I went to Wikipedia and read the entire page, and then I’d click some more links and read some more. I started reading the news, daily, and one day I read an interesting article about a virus. It was Stuxnet, and it changed my life. I followed the link from the BBC article to a small German IT Security website called Langner. They had been following and analysis Stuxnet for quite some time and had made a lot of progress. That’s where I was first introduced to the field of computer security. I looked up more security blogs, and I really liked what I read.
One day, when I was wading through the deluge of daily college emails telling me that “You’d be great for _____ college! Take our survey!” or “Here, have this free success kit from _____ college!” and hidden away in all of that was a simple email from Penn State. This email did not try to give me a free success kit, it did not talk down to me, it simply laid out the Information Sciences and Technology majors that they offered. One of these appealed to me, specifically Security and Risk Analysis.
Fast forward two years, and here I am. I am writing this from the dorm at Penn State, I’m on track to graduate in four years with a bachelorette degree in Security and Risk Analysis – Information and Cyber Security. And from there, who knows?