February is African American History Month, an opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans. We’re proud to highlight the Symantec Cyber Career Connection(Symantec C3) program, which provides a pathway for underrepresented and under-resourced young adults to fill in-demand cyber security jobs and enjoy long-term, meaningful careers. Today, we spotlight Will Panameno, a Symantec C3 program graduate.
I worked in the automotive industry as a technician at a dealership for about five years. I would get home every day and stare at myself in the mirror, covered in grease from head to toe, oil in my fingernails, cuts all over my hands and arms. I knew I was selling myself short and could do more with my life. I didn’t see a future for myself in that industry and was unhappy, but the bills were getting paid. I felt stuck.
I heard about The Stride Center and the Symantec C3 program from a friend. I did my research and was intrigued by their mission; it gave me a sense of relief and hope. I am a strong believer in “everything happens for a reason” and so I ran with my gut feeling and signed up. This is when my life began changing.
Choosing cyber security and Symantec
I chose the Symantec C3 program at Stride because their mission is what I live for. Like both organizations, I live to serve others, protect those around me from harm, and help make this world a safer place for us all. Another benefit is that because I chose a cyber security path, I received a scholarship to cover the cost of my tuition through the Symantec C3 program.
We live in a world where causing damage doesn’t have to be something physical. Lives can be ruined when someone accesses your digital information maliciously or without consent. Knowing that I can make a positive impact, and help fight cyber criminals was more than enough to reel me into the cyber security path.
The life-changing power of steganography
I loved studying how to avoid or stop the many different types of attacks that take place. My favorite subjects were steganography, the ability to hide text inside of a picture, and hashing, which is the ability to turn a password, for example, into random numbers that represent that password.
The program gave me technical skills as well as life and professional skills that have helped me be successful thus far in my career. The staff at The Stride Center was great at staying on top of jobs for students and providing career navigation tips because they sincerely want to see you succeed. I worked as a contractor on projects for several Bay Area tech companies and had the privilege to attend the RSA conference in San Francisco, which was an awesome experience!
I am now a Desktop Support Technician for one of California’s top hospitals. My future plan is to transition into a security role, such as a cyber security analyst to take on every day challenges to protect our information from intruders.
To those thinking about a career in cyber security
Without question, I would definitely recommend the Symantec C3 program to others. In the words of my instructor, Bruce Weaver from The Stride Center, “You cannot get complacent in life, especially at work, just because your job is paying the bills.” This hit home for me prior to joining the program.
Changing or starting a career in any field is scary because we don’t know what to expect. I was scared to transition because cars were all I knew, and it was hard to start from the ground up again. You have to know that failure is inevitable, but what you grasp from those failures and do differently next time has the power to make you successful.
Simply put, Symantec and The Stride Center have changed my life. This opportunity came at a time when I felt there was no way out. People invested in me because they saw my potential and the support I received has been phenomenal. This experience helped me realize that I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it and I will forever be grateful.
I would like to thank Symantec and The Stride Center for blessing me with the opportunity to take control of my future. I would also like to thank my family and friends for all the support through my journey so far— I couldn’t have done any of this without them.
You can learn more about the Symantec C3 program on our website.
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