This scholarship winner prides herself on interdisciplinary experience
On paper, employers have viewed Infosec Accelerate Scholarship winner Rachel Jones as a “temporary asset.” Though her skillset, knowledge and unbounded ambition are all apparent when talking with her face-to-face, Jone’s resume reflects a lifetime of moves and different job titles. None of which she is directly responsible for.
As a military spouse, this is just reality: enlist, move and get assigned somewhere new. Move again. And while Jones is happy to support her husband’s career and wherever it takes them, the world’s sudden shift to remote work has opened up new opportunities that don’t require her to stay in one place.
For Jones, a career in cybersecurity has never looked more promising. That’s why she’s adamant about doing whatever it takes to be taken seriously. As a professional, as a leader and as a woman.
Early exposure sparks a life-long passion
Like many current professionals in the field, Jones didn’t always have her sights set on cyber. In undergrad, she settled on political science, unsure if women were even allowed in cybersecurity. “At that time, I didn’t really have role models or influences that said a girl could have a career in cybersecurity,” she admits.
Craving a larger challenge, Jones then pursued a master’s degree at the International Space University. There, she became intrigued by the link between cybersecurity and outer space, constructing her capstone project around vulnerabilities and their far-reaching impact.
While it was during this era that her curiosity turned into full-blown fascination, Jones admits that she’s always had a love for technology. “My stepfather worked for GE, so we always had the latest and greatest computers right when they were coming out,” she says. “I was probably one of the first kids to have a computer.”
Watching her mentor and stepfather, a software developer, fix tech issues and find solutions is what sparked her initial interest in cyber. Her graduate studies, she says, simply fueled the fire. “I’ve always just innately liked computers; I liked working on them.”
Sharpening skills outside of the office
Today, Jones harnesses her innate passion in a cyber-related role, always working toward the next professional accomplishment. But when she’s not studying for a cert or learning a new skill, Jones stays active in her cyber community.
From teaching basic programming and planning a STEM-based curriculum to helping Girl Scouts earn cyber badges and beyond, Jones has volunteered her time to several programs with one main goal in mind: to mentor, empower and inspire young women. “I believe anyone is capable of entering the cybersecurity field, and I want to help youth get the mentorship and empowerment they need to succeed.”
In addition to youth outreach, Jones is also an amateur radio enthusiast and a member of (ISC)² Middle Georgia Chapter, a professional organization committed to enhancing information security in local communities.
Success stems from diversity
While Jone’s unique background stands out during interviews, she believes an interdisciplinary skillset is the secret to cyber success. “We’re past the days of the lone hacker being able to take down a system,” she explains. “Now, teams have to work together.”
Instead of relying on one go-to cyber guru, Jones says that professionals with diverse experience can offer different perspectives, empowering everyone to think outside of the box to solve problems.
“You can’t have one person that is going to be an expert in all of cyber,” she says. After all, technology and hackers are always evolving. A successful cyber team has to be interdisciplinary nowadays.”
Ambitions for the Antarctic
Jones is always working toward her next career highlight, but for now, she’s got a few major goals in mind, including earning her CISSP, completing her bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity and leading and winning a capture-the-flag event.
Jones hopes to secure her dream role at McMurdo, a U.S. research station in the Antarctic, in the distant future. “The idea of running a cyber network and maintaining internet connectivity in a place where there’s no infrastructure, I love that thinking. I love that idea and concept,” she says.
Until then, she’ll use her Infosec Skills access to get ahead, stay agile and keep herself motivated.
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