A student finds support and a career that fits just right
By Paul Schwalbach
It’s not often that someone on the verge of receiving a $10,000-a-year pay raise quits her job because she knows she will have other opportunities that offer excellent pay and a better work-life balance.
But Kaela Manger was able to do just that, thanks to a Pima Community College education in Cyber/Information Technology. Through Pima, Manger has found a profession that pays well and offers multiple avenues to a life that fits just right.
Kaela Manger, Pima graduate
Like many, Manger has experienced twists and turns on her education and professional journey. She grew up in the Arizona border town of Sonoita, got her high school general equivalency diploma and found employment in social work in Tucson. She proved so adept at solving her co-workers’ computer challenges that her boss suggested she consider studying IT.
Paid to be an internet “detective”
Manger enrolled at Pima, where she has been studying Network Systems Administration with a concentration in cybersecurity. Manger also joined Pima’s IT Club, where she connected with a fellow student whose tip about an open position led to her first IT job, repairing PCs. She also became a leader at the Arizona Cyber Warfare Range (azcwr.org).
Then came a full-time position with a metro Phoenix cybersecurity firm that hired her as an internet detective of sorts, investigating suspicious activity on the IT networks of the firm’s clients.
The position paid $40,000 a year – not bad for someone still in school, without a degree. She took the job and moved to Chandler. With her Pima education on hold, she immersed herself in analyzing phishing, hacking and other cyberthreats.
She enjoyed the work but it was intense and didn’t leave much bandwidth for school. In January 2020 she quit – just before she was to receive that $10K raise – so she could concentrate on completing her Pima education online.
Manger graduated from Pima in December with her Associate of Applied Science degree. She wants to pursue advanced certificates in digital forensics and-or penetration testing but isn’t seeking a full-time position.
“I’m looking to work and have a family,” Manger said. “In IT, there are just so many opportunities to work from home, and do contract work.”
A woman in IT
Women constitute 35% of Cyber/IT students at Pima, though the profession remains largely male for now. Manger says she’s never had a bad experience at work. “I have always gotten along with (male coworkers),” she said.
“I always felt extremely supported at Pima,” Manger continued. “The staff and faculty there are so humble, kind and encouraging. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities if not for them. I was not confident in my abilities when I got to Pima. They lifted me up.”
Breaking down cybersecurity myths
Career Focus asked Brett Scott, director of security training and enablement at TechData, a global supplier of computer hardware, to convene TechData and Pima experts to separate fact from fiction in cybersecurity.
Myth Cybersecurity is not a welcoming place for women or members of communities of color.
Fact Cybersecurity companies know they need a diversity of thought to combat the complex threats they see every day.
Myth You need a cybersecurity degree from a university.
Fact Nothing could be further from the truth. Community colleges like Pima can change their coursework more quickly than large institutions that are long on theory.
Myth You’ve got to be young for cybersecurity.
Fact Nope. Experience in an industry plus cyber knowledge is an unbeatable combination.
Myth You need to live in Silicon Valley to be successful in cybersecurity.
Fact Creative problem-solvers are more likely to shine outside of established enclaves such as Silicon Valley. Businesses in Arizona will compensate skilled cyber warriors handsomely.
To see more myths: bit.ly/3nIxFOG.