Do a quick Google search of “burnout” and you’ll see more than 184 million results – which doesn’t surprise CSU Global alumna Lauren Jackson of Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Jackson originally earned her bachelor’s degree in creative arts therapy from Long Island University; when jobs in that field were scarce, she went on to earn a master’s degree in communication sciences and disorders from Howard University. 

At first, Jackson was unsure where her career pivot would lead, but then stopped to consider what truly intrigued her. “TV shows that solve crimes with computers – the forensics part – I was always interested in it. And after a few times of having my identity stolen and trying to play super sleuth for myself, I thought that might be something for me. I can protect myself and others and make a career out of it.”

After researching what programs could help her get into the field of cybersecurity, Jackson learned that her transfer credits and CSU Global’s accelerated courses would allow her to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Cybersecurity in just over a year. 

While cybersecurity might seem like quite the departure from her previous career in speech language pathology, Jackson says that she felt better prepared than most when starting her program. She explained that when working in a clinical or hospital setting, providers are always dealing with protected health information and HIPAA compliance is essential. “You're definitely not going to leave records open and available to people who shouldn't have access to it,” Jackson says. Additionally, she had been providing telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic, so she was familiar with online consultations, troubleshooting, and basic care of computer systems and hardware. 

Jackson is currently a Software Quality Assurance Engineer for TIAG, a public sector and government contractor, a role that’s helping her grow in a field still relatively new to her. While she enjoys the work and appreciates the ability to work remotely, it was not an easy road getting there.

Getting her foot in the door with tech companies was tough at first. Jackson’s advice for those just starting out in the industry? Hands-on experience and networking. “I found a person locally who did troubleshooting, desktop support, and help desk-type work. I asked him if I could be his intern or assistant and he agreed. This was when COVID-19 was at its peak so I was able to do that remotely. It allowed me the ability to work full-time, do the internship, and do my coursework without having to feel stressed about going back and forth to an office.” 

The importance of networking cannot be stressed enough, shared Jackson. “It was so hard to even get past interview level one with many tech companies. It really should be a main focus for students to network and to be able to get those hands-on skills.” Jackson recommends that other students and alumni visit the Global Connect alumni portal for mentoring, networking, and internship listings. 

Finally, Jackson said that the interview callbacks really started when she took the initiative to build an online portfolio of her work. “I said to myself, ‘How does someone know that I have these skills?’ That's the number one thing that [tech employers] like to ask in interviews  –  examples of when you used a certain skill. I was putting it on my résumé and it kept getting overlooked. For some of these skills, I have a more advanced knowledge than what's on this piece of paper.” Jackson created videos demonstrating her actually doing the work. “Somebody can see that I have the skills and I'm worth the investment to give a chance to interview or offer a job.”

“Believe it or not, my past work in speech therapy complements how I am able to participate in meetings on a weekly basis now. You have to have a certain level of professionalism and be comfortable speaking up. There are some people who don't have that skill and it shows. Not that it hurts their performance in IT, but it seems to be a limitation for how well some are able to communicate progress on projects.” 

The perks of her remote tech industry job are many, but Jackson says she values the flexibility and balance it (literally!) brings to her life. “As long as I'm getting my work done there isn't someone micromanaging me, and I'm able to take care of my health as a priority. My employer also offers a monthly yoga group that I join when I can.”

July 8, 2022