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Networking students at DCC 

Top: Danville Community College cyber security student David Payne confirms a connection point on DCC’s telecommunications training module.

Bottom: DCC cyber security student Andre Fitzgerald examines the interface in DCC’s hands-on networking training center.

 

DCC cyber programs anticipate DHS/NSA recognition

 

(November 9, 2016)  – Danville Community College is already seeing great success with its new Third Year Advanced Studies Cyber Security Certificate program and is proud to announce that several students have already been hired by technology firms in the Southern Virginia region.

David Payne of Dry Fork and Andre Fitzgerald of Keeling both earned Associate of Applied Science Degrees in Information Technology Networking at Danville Community College. Now, they are well into their Third Year Advanced Studies in Cyber Security at DCC, continuing to focus and develop their IT skills.

“I had a great foundation in place from the Associate of Applied Science in Networking Degree, but I needed to learn how to secure those networks,” Payne, 35, said. “Today’s data networks are more complicated than ever, which makes securing them much more difficult than it has been in the past. We live in the IOT (internet of things) era and nearly everything is connected to the internet in some way these days. As time goes on and companies continue to collect and build more and more sensitive data on their networks, we also have more to lose from cybercrime and attacks against those networks. Now, more than ever, we need trained professionals that are capable of defending our networks and the data they hold.”

Payne and Fitzgerald are part of the first class that will graduate from the Cyber Security Certificate program in 2017.

“With the proliferation of hacking increasing, I wanted to join the ‘good guys’ and use my skills and knowledge to protect people and their data,” Fitzgerald, 38, said.

“Andre and David started in the Networking A.A.S. Degree program and did fantastic, but even before they finished, they were hired by a local IT company, who saw the potential that both students possessed,” said Steven Carrigan, director of the DCC Cyber Center and assistant professor of information technology. “They knew that cyber security should be their next big focus area, so they went straight in.”

Carrigan added that the students’ self-direction made a big impact on their success in the program.

“They carry themselves well and have the right attitude, which is why I believe they are a success today. They recognized that the skill sets they needed were in the networking and cyber programs, so they worked hard to understand and comprehend the material I was trying to teach them,” Carrigan said. “They didn’t come to DCC from an information technology background, but they quickly identified that they needed to put a lot into their training and education. Their experiences prove that if you put your time and heart into it, you can be a success.”

DCC’s cyber security programs provide curricula that are mapped to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency (NSA) Cyber Security Education Standards and are designated by those agencies as part of the Centers of Academic Excellence for Two-Year Institutions (CAE2Y). Carrigan also stated that the college is waiting for final approval for its cyber programs to be added to the DHS/NSA Database, which is expected to occur later this semester.

“There is a major need for cyber security experts in the U.S. – David and Andre realized that,” Carrigan said, also mentioning that there are 650 cyber security companies based in Virginia already. The number of cyber security jobs in Virginia is estimated to increase by 25 percent over the next six years.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said earlier this year that Virginia has more than 17,000 open cyber security jobs, with some starting salaries topping $80,000.

For Fitzgerald and Payne, cyber security as a career choice was an easy decision to make.

Fitzgerald recently resigned from his position as a network technician to focus on obtaining two IT industry certifications and make arrangements for a position at a data center. His starting entry level salary is expected to be in the mid-$40,000 per year range.

Fitzgerald said the programs and coursework at DCC helped him tremendously in leading to this opportunity.

“Without DCC, my career definitely wouldn’t be on the track that it is now,” Fitzgerald said. “Cyber security is an important field. The local networking and information technology circle is very tight-knit. With a few references and an interview, I was pretty much guaranteed the job.”

Payne, who received his first PC, a Commodore 64, for Christmas when he was six years old, said that he never looked back after his first encounter with technology.

“I was hooked. Computer systems have always fascinated me; we just click — no pun intended. I am one of the lucky generations that was able to witness the birth of the public internet. I can remember dialing up modems and connecting to chat rooms with individuals across the globe. I always thought the internet was one of the greatest and most complicated telecommunications achievements we created as a society, aside from the public switched telephone networks which, of course, have been around for much longer. I had a firm understanding of how computer systems worked, but I never really understood the technology that powered the internet and data networks. This is where Mr. Carrigan stepped in with the A.A.S. Networking Program.”

Payne is now a system operator at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, where he monitors activities in a data center environment to ensure that everything is running as it should from a networking and server standpoint.

“I would not be where I am right now if it were not for Steven Carrigan, Jay Adkins, Rick Riddle, and many other talented instructors at DCC,” Payne said. “The hands-on classroom experience and lectures have built a very strong foundation for me to build upon. Most every instructor I have had in IT and CS at DCC hold jobs in the fields of either networking or cyber security. It has been nice to get their perspective on things since they are current in the industry and out there doing it day in and day out. If I could go back and do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

As for his studies at DCC, Payne explained that it has been the key to his professional success.

“The cyber security program was a no-brainer for me, it just made sense,” Payne said. “I remember sitting down with Mr. Carrigan one afternoon, which was the first time I had ever met him, to discuss my future and my desire to start a career in networking, but didn’t know where to start. It took him maybe 15 minutes to lay it all out for me; I knew that I was in good hands at that point. I was thrilled by his colorful personality and enthusiasm for the field of networking. His passion for the work makes it fun to learn and easier to remember. Mr. Carrigan loves his work and it shows, which creates better students and better future IT employees. Universities across the globe would benefit from having an instructor like Mr. Carrigan around.”

Thanks to DCC’s Digital Campus, students around the world can have access to the training and virtual hands-on experience available through the college’s Cyber Security program right at their fingertips.

The Cyber Security program is conducted online via live video streaming where all classes are also recorded for playback by students who cannot attend at the specified time due to work or family schedules. Additionally, all lab work requirements are performed through virtual environments, provided by the program, allowing students to get the true feeling of being in a real college classroom and getting the skills they need to be successful in the fields of IT and cyber security.

“I designed the program so that a student could be anywhere in the world with an internet connection and take the program without ever having to come to the physical campus,” Carrigan said, adding that although the courses are held online, the experience is much more like being in a digital classroom than merely reading a webpage. “It’s still a live environment. It’s just like sitting in the classroom. DCC has digitized the classroom experience for this program.”

For more information about DCC’s Cyber Center, visit www.danvillecc.edu/cybercenter or call 434-797-8460 to speak with an admissions counselor.

 

 

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