Mission accomplished: How one army veteran turned neurobiologist moved into cybersecurity
Meet Tom Prigg. An Army veteran turned neurobiologist — turned security engineer.
After growing up in poverty, Tom has always dreamed of giving his family a better life. He attributes his time in the Army as a launching point for this, giving him key skills and mindsets that have translated to success in his post-service careers. After his time in the Army, his passion for science and technology initially drew him to a 20-year career in neurobiology.
At the age of 48, Tom was ready for a new challenge. After some research, he decided to take the leap into cybersecurity. He found free cybersecurity training options through VetsinTech and Infosec, providing a boot camp for Security+, an essential certification for cybersecurity professionals to kick start their careers.
Since training with VetsinTech and Infosec, Tom has gotten not only his Security+ certification but also an AWS Cloud certification. Now, he’s secured a role with Caterpillar as a security engineer and is already looking ahead to how he can keep his skills sharp with today’s evolving threatscape.
To learn more about Tom’s experience, Infosec sat down to learn more and lessons he’d share with other veterans looking to enter the cybersecurity industry:
Why did you pursue a career in cybersecurity and take the boot camp?
These days, no one in cybersecurity can simply have a single skill. I’ve had to move from project to project where the skills are vastly different: pentesting a web application, writing scripts to harden servers, creating a vulnerability assessment and making weekly vulnerability scans, threat hunting, and parsing log files to find patterns.
How have your Infosec training and certification helped give you job-ready cybersecurity skills?
The training has put me in a perfect spot for employment. I have a nicely diverse portfolio that qualifies me for many different jobs and unique jobs where they need more than only a cybersecurity person. For example, they need someone who can write a tool if they need it and so on.
Security+ is one of those certifications you need to get people to read your resume. Many HR and various other searches will scan just for that certification. It’s a must in this industry.
AWS Cloud is the future of networking. There will not be a cybersecurity job in the future that doesn’t want or require a cloud computing background.
What’s next for you? Since your boot camp, have you secured a new role?
I started my new job as a security engineer at Catapillar in March. As a security engineer, I’ll be using python code to pull data from APIs, process and analyze it for indicators of compromise (IOCs) then pass it along to Syslog. This is just my first assignment, but I’m excited to see what’s next.
On my learning and training journey, I’ll start another semester in my graduate program in mid-September. I’ll start the Python course with VetsinTech as preparation for the Machine Learning course. My goal is to integrate machine learning into threat emulation for better purple team engagements to test security and learn to predict attack vectors.
How instrumental were VetsinTech and Infosec in your employment journey?
I’ve loved every course I’ve taken with VetsinTech. It’s the reason I keep coming back for their training.
I grew up in poverty, and the Army basically got me out of poverty and put me on a path to start building a career. I’m very grateful that I did my service and still feel like it was the turning point in my life. The one thing I wanted to do in my life was to make sure my kids had a much better life growing up than I had. After nearly 20 years in the neurobiology field after my time in the service, I knew I needed a change.
I made up my mind to completely change fields at the age of 48.
The benefit of entering cybersecurity is that there isn’t much of a hierarchy like there is in many other fields. People don’t care about your degree or years in; they want to know what you can do and see you do it. Cybersecurity is a new field, and college programs are still in the early stages of making them into viable curriculums.
As for the pay, cybersecurity pays extremely well. Don’t be surprised if you start at $90,000. It’ll take a lot of work. Our field is enormous for the number of things you have to learn, and as technology evolves, our field expands daily.
I recommend people keep growing their skills by taking courses from VetsinTech. Getting those base skills down and the certifications are gold. Take those projects from the courses and add them to your portfolio. Remember, it’s about what you can do and what you have done.
The journey isn’t easy, but it’s legit. Keep working hard and stay positive because everything you learn will get you closer to a good life.
To learn more about the VetsinTech and Infosec partnership and if you qualify for free certification training as a veteran, military spouse or transitioning military member, click here.