How to Survive College – Part Five

Greetings and salutations everyone!

Today’s lesson is a continuation off of yesterday’s in regards to finding your passion in what you do. In an effort to better explain, I’ve undergone this myself, and will try and elaborate to the best of my ability.

So coming here to the University, I was not entirely sure what exactly I wanted to do.. I had an idea in my head that I really enjoyed the inner workings of computers, and was fascinated with software development, so I only figured that Computer Science was one way to go in college. But along the line of myself studying what I thought was my dream career, I stumbled across the idea of working as an event response or system administrator, or working into penetration testing of various devices or the like. This in turn would lead me on to my path of Network Security as well.

I’ve been fascinated with computers and technology for as long as I can remember. In the past, my fascination has taken me other places, as I have hit that point where I wanted to by chance develop video games so that I could possibly create the next biggest hit to come out of my favorite consoles (at that time it was the n64 and later the Gamecube/Xbox). Later I found out through extensive searching online, that it did require a lot of work and a lot of time, and I was a little discouraged after that. Afterwards, I thought I could possibly become an artist. I really enjoyed drawing, and I had taken several classes to hone the skills I had independently, but overall, I don’t think I could work to the caliber that a lot of my friends even right now are at, and they’re phenomenal to say the least.

Finally I found out through my middle and high school about the Linux distributions and operating systems. It was from there that I was completely amazed to work with this system I have never seen before. There were so many tools and applications that I had never seen before, and keep in mind, I was used to Windows XP going into Vista at this point in my life. It was also later on that I wanted to learn as much as I could in regards to working with different software, and how it all worked.

This is where my foundations of computer programming came in. It was there that I tried applying it where necessary, and teaching myself a little bit of the programming languages so that I can have a better understanding of script analysis and working with software development.

Not long afterwards, my dad had shown me some other applications and uses of these distributions. Namely, Backtrack Linux. For those of you who do not know of Backtrack, it is now known as the predecessor of Kali Linux, in the penetration testing field of the Kali distros. From there I could begin finding out the different means that data is transferred across the network, and that I could find things that were floating across the air, do pentesting against my own systems, and more.

Given that this is all where my own passion originally came from, that still does not stop the process as it was even more recently that I had discovered exactly what I want to do.

This past weekend, from Thursday to Sunday of last week, I was at the Western Region Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. It was there that UAT had placed within the top 8 teams of this region, and as such we were allowed to participate in the regional competition. It was there that we were given a simulated environment to protect and work with, in an effort to keep services up and prevent an enemy team from breaking into our servers and taking our data. Where this came in though is in the things that we were doing, which was Event Response and Fortification.

It is one thing to do penetration testing to see your vulnerabilities, and another to be able to gauge your system and try to lock it down as much as you can. In this case, I was looking and analyzing the data being sent across our network and if it proved to be suspicious, I had to take it down.

Previously, I felt like I had a little bit of knowledge in what I wanted to do in the Network Security field. I originally felt like I was going to go into IT somewhere and manage the systems available. But on the other side, I feel now like I have my purpose, in that I thoroughly enjoyed the heat of the action and feeling that my actions made a difference across the system. That I can figure out what belongs and what doesn’t, and make sure that the services and boxes we have are not compromised and the such.

It felt good.

The whole point of this giant wall of text, is not just simply to relay my own experiences, but rather a message I have a hard time explaining sometimes. Sometimes it doesn’t seem very obvious in what you want to do immediately. Sometimes, you do not even figure it out for a while. In my case, I had an idea, but it was vague enough that I didn’t really know where to go as I was stumbling blindly through my degree progress until something hit me in the face.

It can take a while to figure out what you want to do, and that is completely fine. Because the time of which you find what makes you unique, the things that you enjoy that you can make a career out of, whether they be by attending events, or a project you have been working on, it will feel like the best thing in the world.

Next time I’ll talk about some of the events we all go to as students, but until next time,

-Nicholas “TAE”