All posts by Julia Meyer

Career Changer: Sports Medicine to Cybersecurity

Career change sign - sports medicine to cybersecurity

Curious about changing careers? We caught up with Cybersecurity student, German Hall shortly after he accepted his first position in the IT field. He moved across the country to work for ReliaQuest (a MSP headquartered in Tampa) at their Las Vegas, NV, Security Operations Center (SOC). In our discussion, he shared details about his job search, employer’s hiring process, and initial salary offer. A glimpse into German’s new role will inspire you to take the next step in your career even before graduation.

Titan Interview: German Hall

Employer: ReliaQuest

Title: Associate Security Analyst (Tier 1)

Length of Time in Position: Three months

Industry Certifications: CompTIA Security+, Certified Ethical Hacker, Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician

Education: Currently earning an Associate in Science in Cybersecurity, St. Petersburg College, previously earned a Masters in Movement Science, Barry University, Miami Shores, FL.

From Sports Medicine to Cybersecurity:

With a former career in sports medicine, and a graduate degree in Movement Science, why did you decide to make a career change?

“There was limited room for growth professionally and financially, and little life-work balance in my former industry. I was working six days per week and my schedule was unknown 10 months out of the year.”

What advice would you give others preparing for their first position in cybersecurity?

“If you have entry-level knowledge, consider CompTIA Network+ and Security+ certification to differentiate yourself. Take a Cisco course, and understand networking and security principles. Build a home lab. It is easier to start in a Security Operations Center that provides great training!”

You found ReliaQuest’s job post on LinkedIn. As an entry-level cybersecurity professional, still completing your degree, how did you get them to notice you?

“I heard lots of ‘no’ (before I found ReliaQuest.) I built a home lab setting up virtual machines, because I did not have any field experience. My Kali Linux experience has helped, too. They were looking for employees with entry-level knowledge. I had both strong foundational knowledge and industry certifications, from taking online courses at SPC.”

“I connected with many cybersecurity recruiters on LinkedIn, but one day I saw a suggested job post for ReliaQuest, not through any of my connections. I direct messaged their recruiter, who sent my resume straight to their HR department. Four days later, they called me for an initial interview, which consisted of basic security principle questions. I went through five interviews over the course of two-weeks. At each stage of the interview process, I would hear a response within 24 to 48 hours. I accepted their initial salary offer of $60,000 per year.”

You moved across the country to work for them, is there something about this employer that made you excited to take that leap?

“They have rapidly grown their Security Operations Centers from a Tampa start-up in 2007, to serving over 200 large businesses nationally and internationally. At our site, their retention rate of employees is about 90%. Everyone’s voice is valued. They pride themselves on culture, and seek to hire people who are team players. I had to take a Culture Test! When I arrived in Las Vegas, I completed an intensive, month-long proprietary training program. The support from my managers was great.”

It is important to note, that at the same time German was completing his training, he was studying for his Certified Ethical Hacker certification, funded by SPC. He became a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) shortly after.

What is your typical day at ReliaQuest like?

“I currently work ‘C’ shift, from 6:00 pm to 3:00 am each week. I work on-site at their Security Operations Center, which operates 24/7, 365. Most of ReliaQuest’s new associates are scheduled then, when the volume is lower. My main role is to provide incident response for our customers when an incident is detected in their environment. I am responsible for determining the threat factor and how they were able to compromise a user or system. I investigate and suspicious or malicious acts. It is my job to take the burden off their cybersecurity team. A written report accompanies every ticket (incident).   We have service level agreements (SLA) in place with our customer call-out tree for before and after hour’s calls.”

Your employer has rapidly grown since they were a start-up. Did they explain how they would help you grow with them?

“Yes, they try to promote from within. I am currently an Associate Security Analyst (Tier 1) and every six to nine months, I will be eligible for assessment by our Career Review Committee. If a promotion were awarded, I would receive a 10 % raise with each step-up. If the Career Review Committee rules at six months that no promotion will be given, they will reassess me on the next available CRC date.

After one year of service with them, they will cover my costs of earning a new industry certification, or provide a certain amount toward higher education. They have an excellent pathway for growth, including leadership and technical positions. My next step is SOC (Security Operations Center) Analyst (Tier 1).”

What is next for you?

“I am working towards becoming a Tier 2 Security Analyst and will be studying to become CCNA Security certified.”

Thank you for your time and sharing your student perspective in your new career, Cyber Security. German differentiated himself online three ways:

  • Through use of social media – LinkedIn
  • Directly connecting with recruiters in his desired field
  • Earning a body of industry certifications before he had in-field experience.

A new career like German’s can be yours too. Get started today earning your Associate in Science in Cybersecurity with SPC, students who perform well academically, have opportunities to earn several industry certifications FREE. Are you applying for a job with ReliaQuest? Let them know that German Hall referred you!

Follow us on Instagram or Twitter at #careerspc#spcintern,,  #workforcespc. and #GetCertifiedSPC

MSP: In Step with the New Economy

MSP remote work

What is an MSP? Businesses looking to scale and stay current with their technology are outsourcing technical work. They are using managed services providers (MSPs) instead of maintaining an in-house IT department.

MSP is a relatively new business model in IT operation. Growth of the managed services market is estimated to increase 10 percent year-over-year through 2022, according to a Markets and Markets report published last fall. Now is a great time to get familiar with what managed services providers do for the businesses they serve. Now is also a good time to add MSP to your job search keywords.

What do managed services providers (MSPs) do?

Managed services providers offer and manage a service (or bundle of services) for a business on an on-going basis. Their services may be provided on site at the client’s establishment or offered remotely through cloud computing.

Small and medium-sized enterprises are choosing to work with MSPs because of the reliability and stability using cloud computing.  Support is often available to clients of an MSP 24/7. Each business-to-business relationship has an agreement, which states what services are performed and how the two businesses will operate once the partnership is in place. Fees for the service may be paid on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.

Think of an MSP as a subscription service providing day-to-day technical support for a business’ operations, cloud-based network, security monitoring, or management of their IT infrastructure.

Your experience is as valuable as your technical talent working for MSP

Employees of managed services providers work directly for the MSP  and indirectly for clients. This means that interpersonal skills like customer service, honed from previous job experience (like prior interviewee Adam McCarty’s time in Hospitality) become particularly important. You are responsible for effectively communicating with stakeholders on both sides of the service agreement. In a more complex scenario, some employees of MSPs manage multiple client accounts. They must balance the expectations of each client, perform their technical work, and be transparent and communicative with everyone.

Two St. Petersburg College Titan alumni who are working for an MSP in different roles were interviewed about their work.

Khoi “Tiger” Chu, a 2016 SPC graduate, talked about his  first six months working remotely for GuidePoint Security, LLC as a Virtual Security Operations Center (vSOC) Analyst.

And check out an earlier interview with Adam McCarty to learn more about his experience working on site for clients of his MSP employer, Lair Services, Inc.

Titan Alumni Interview, Tiger Chu: Why I chose to work for a Managed Services Provider

Tiger’s employer, GuidePoint Security LLC, runs high-availability virtual security operations centers and has team members available 24/7. When he chose to work there, the flexibility of having a remote position weighed heavily on his decision.

“For my job, as long as there is a reliable internet connection, I can work. I can stay more focused working from home and in my comfort zone. I only commute to the office when our clients are visiting,” Tiger said.

For those who crave flexibility in their schedule but are sick of the gig-economy, the emergence of managed services providers locally (many with benefits) could be the next best step.

How does Tiger stay connected with his managers, team members, and clients?

  • “I use Slack to communicate with my team.”
  • “Meet face-to-face weekly with our clients using Zoom video conferencing.”

Tiger also explained that large businesses are choosing MSPs as a cost-saving measure over hiring, training, and retaining, in-house cybersecurity staff.

A typical shift

  • I monitor our security information and event management (SIEM) software for suspicious events.
  • Validate the strange activity, then document and manage my incidents in our case management system.
  • We use a ticketing system to report the incidents to our clients.
  • He regularly answers questions his clients raise, and provides guidance to resolve their issues.

With small, medium, and large businesses choosing to invest in technical talent through managed services providers, your next search on a job board should include MSP.

Earn your CCNA and CompTIA Security+ Certifications Free at SPC

Students looking to position themselves for work with managed services providers can leverage their technology degree from SPC through earning industry certifications aligned with their coursework. The Carl D. Perkins IV Grant for Career and Technical Education will fund exam fees for high-performing students. With opportunities to earn credentials from CompTIA, Cisco, and EC-Council, and a private Pearson VUE authorized testing center, SPC makes taking the next step on your career path easier.

For more information on these certifications, contact Julia Meyer, Certification Testing Coordinator in the Career Connections department at SPC.

Follow us on Instagram or Twitter at #careerspc#spcintern, and #workforcespc.

#GetCertifiedSPC – Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity Word Cloud

Curious how St. Petersburg College alumni have used their skill sets, industry certifications, and college degrees to land great jobs? Do you want to know where their SPC Titan education has taken them?  Check out this alumni story and #GetCertifiedSPC through SPC’s FREE certification opportunity for high-performing career and technical education students. MAKE MORE out of your skills with a Cybersecurity Associate in Science degree.

SPC alumnus Adam McCarty was offered his first job in Technology with Lair Services, Inc. a managed services provider well before graduation. He is now a Service Engineer overseeing all of the day-to-day IT operations for a powerful Lair Services client, in Downtown St. Petersburg. Learn more about his path below, and make sure to check out our previous Titan Alumni post with Emily Varjassy, Cybersecurity Certificate graduate.

SPC Titan Alumni Employment & Academic Profile

SPC Graduate: James (Adam) McCarty

Employer: Lair Services, Inc. – a managed services provider (subcontractor for client in Downtown St. Petersburg)

Title: Service Engineer (Technician level)

Length of Time in Position: nine months

Industry Certifications: CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+

Education: Associate in Science in Cybersecurity, St. Petersburg College, December 2017

Cybersecurity Certification from St. Petersburg College Helped Him Land a Job Before Graduation

“Just before earning my Associate in Science degree in Cybersecurity with SPC, I began working for Lair Services, Inc.  This is a managed IT service provider with over 100 client accounts ranging from small to large businesses in the Tampa Bay area. My CompTIA Network+ and Security+ certifications helped me land the job before graduation. I currently work full-time on site with our second largest client, a reputable accounting firm in downtown St. Petersburg. As the only on-site technical support for this business, I am responsible for all of their day-to-day IT operations. That ranges from providing cybersecurity training to their employees and (clients), remotely troubleshooting issues, installing software updates, as well as managing our terminal server connections, in-house file-server, and firewall settings.”

“My certifications coupled with my experience in hospitality (where I developed customer service skills) played a big role in why I was chosen for my position over other candidates. Being personable is essential in both industries! When people are hungry, or their internet does not work – it is easy for them to get upset. But when you are pleasant and you feed them, or fix their computer, everyone is back to being your friend!”

How to Successfully Get Certified

“The classroom provides the foundation for your certification exams, but it is just not possible for the depth of each competency to be gone over in an 8-week class. You must go further on your own before you sit for a certification exam, if you want to succeed. I used a lot of supplemental resources like YouTube, forums, and the Exam Cram guides available at SPC’s libraries.”

Building up my Industry Certification Portfolio

“I may earn my bachelor’s degree in the future, but for now I’ll continue to build my portfolio of IT certifications and gain further experience in the field. I am studying for EC-Councils’ Certified Ethical Hacker (certification) right now.”

Get Certified through SPC

Have you received a FREE #GetCertifiedSPC invitation from your professor? Did you schedule your exam date? Do not wait – there is still time! Email Let us get you in the certification pipeline so you can MAKE MORE out of your skills with certification!

If you would like to share your career progression as an alumni with other Titans, including how your education and opportunities (like FREE industry certifications) at SPC helped you get there, email Julia Meyer, Certification Testing Coordinator with SPC’s  Career Connections to make it happen.

Follow us on Twitter at #careerspc, #spcintern, #workforcespc

SPC Titan Alumni: Where Are They Now? – Emily Varjassy


Curious how St. Petersburg College alumni have used their skill sets, industry certifications, and college degrees to land a great job? Do you want to know where their SPC Titan education has taken them?  Check out this alumni story and #GetCertifiedSPC through SPC’s FREE certification opportunity for high-performing career and technical education students. See where a cybersecurity certificate can take you.

SPC alumna Emily Varjassy entered into the dynamic and rapidly changing field of cybersecurity. She’s now a BayCare Health System employee and member of the organization’s Information Systems (IS) Security and Compliance Team.

SPC Titan Alumni Employment & Academic Profile
SPC alumna Emily Varjassy
Emily Varjassy

SPC Graduate: Emily Varjassy

Employer: BayCare Health System, IS (Information Systems) Security and Compliance Team

Title: IS Compliance Analyst

Length of Time in Position: 1 Year (4 Years with BayCare Health System)

Industry Certification: CompTIA Security+

Education: Cybersecurity Certificate, St. Petersburg College, December 2017

Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences, concentration in Biological Science, University of South Florida, May 2014

Emily Varjassy: The Beginning of My Career Pathway

“Four years ago, I was in my last semester of my bachelor’s program with the University of South Florida, and I needed a for-credit internship. BayCare Health System was hiring interns, and I envisioned myself working with their Project Managers. I ended up interviewing with their Chief Information Security Officer (along with a few other potential interns) and I was chosen! The day I found out, I called my Mom crying. I was terrified to begin working in such a technical department without IT experience. Nevertheless, the opportunity was extended, I had accepted, and my internship grade was on the line. There was no turning back. Despite being out of my comfort zone, I ended up loving it.

“Right after graduation, I was offered a full-time position as an IS User Provisioning Generalist. Each year since, I have enjoyed increased responsibilities and received promotions. To support my professional development and technical skill, BayCare funded my Cybersecurity Certificate at SPC. I took one class each modmester (two per semester) while working full-time. I had plenty of ah-ha moments while completing my certificate. Some of my colleagues (on the Incident Response Team) use the tools I was exposed to in class. I found I could relate the topics covered in my certificate program back to scenarios I encountered at work. It helped me grasp the concepts more quickly!

“Now, I oversee our Security Awareness Program, conducting in-field and online training as well as presentations about cybersecurity for all BayCare employees. I even get to send out phishing emails to them. If they click on the content I sent, they are automatically enrolled in our mandatory online cybersecurity training.”

Certification Increased My Visibility (to Recruiters)

“Since earning my CompTIA Security+ certification last year, and adding it to my LinkedIn profile, I have seen an increase in the number of recruiters who reach out to me with opportunities. My education allowed me to be promoted from IS User Provisioning Generalist to IS Data Security Analyst a year sooner than my employers expected. Now, when I attend meetings with C-Level leaders in my organization, I understand the technical terminology that is discussed, thanks to my certificate at SPC and CompTIA certification.”

Building up my Industry Certification Portfolio

“In this field, experience and certification is what it takes to move forward in your career! Eventually, I would like to earn my master’s degree and become a Senior IS Compliance Analyst. For now, I will gain more experience, and earn more certifications. I am considering certifications like Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).”

Get Certified through SPC

Have you received a FREE #GetCertifiedSPC invitation from your professor? Did you schedule your exam date? Don’t wait – there’s still time! Email Let’s get you in the certification pipeline so you can see yourself CERTIFIED!

If you would like to share your career progression as an alumni with other TITANS, including how your education and opportunities (like FREE industry certifications) at SPC helped you get there, email Julia Meyer, Certification Testing Coordinator with SPC’s  Career Connections to make it happen.

Follow us on Twitter at #careerspc, #spcintern, #workforcespc.

Celebrating 711 certification successes and 3 reasons you should get certified too

Career Conversation with Amazon

The Slurpee is turning 50 years old this year, and today is 7-11 Day.  The St. Petersburg College Career Pathways department is celebrating more than just the perfectly frozen, summertime drink.  Today, we honor the hard work of 711 students who earned an industry certification or license in the 2015-2016 academic year.

St. Petersburg College is dedicated to promoting student success and workforce readiness. Of the 28 institutions in the Florida College System, SPC is currently ranked #3 in certifications earned by students.   With the intention of providing all students in career programs with marketable milestones to achieve while completing their programs, many of our degrees have embedded certifications that students will earn along their path in addition to their college degrees.

Students in our Career + Academic Communities below are already adding these valuable credentials to their Career Portfolio:

  • Engineering, Manufacturing, and Building Arts
  • Health Sciences and Veterinary Technology
  • Public Safety, Policy, and Legal Studies
  • Technology

Here are 3 reasons you should get certified:

  1. Many industry certifications are “stackable,” this means that a student just beginning in their field could earn an associate level certification, and as they gain more experience will qualify to seek additional certifications, eventually reaching the professional level. This is especially helpful to note during the interview process.  If your resume doesn’t yet reflect the in-field career progression you want – your commitment to certification will show any prospective employer that you are dedicated to having the most up-to-date skills in your field and that you are consistently building upon what you have learned to increase your effectiveness. Hopefully, working for them!
  1. Certifications are marketable assets in your Career Portfolio. While some businesses do not require industry certifications, applicants with certifications stand out to a review committee over candidates without them.
  1. Licensure renewal and continuing education credit requirements are associated with most certifications. That means your skills will always be in tune with your industry as it changes, as long as you maintain certification.

Weigh in – are you one of our 711 students to hit the workforce with an industry certification? Tell us about your path there! And don’t forget, if you too are celebrating student success with a Slurpee, snap a photo and hashtag it #spcinspires #getcertificationsspc #slurpee50

Slurpees CertificationIf you want to learn more about industry certification, licensure, and articulation opportunities at SPC contact Julia Meyer,  Administrative Services Specialist.