Nathaniel Jones is making his mark in information security.
As one of the top performers in the 2015 National Security Agency CyberSprint Competition and the owner of a successful penetration testing business, Jones has a solid grasp on the skills needed to protect data assets.
Recently, he took on another professional and intellectual challenge when the desire to protect his country’s data assets prompted him to enroll in Capella University’s Bachelor’s in Information Assurance and Security degree program.
Q. What was it like to be a top performer at the 2015 National Security Agency CyberSprint Competition?
A. I initially took the qualifying challenge on a whim and finished in the top 300. In the second round, our task first was to gather intelligence in a simulated social network environment. After that we proceeded to the actual hacking, utilizing various methods and exploits to gain access to sensitive areas.
I really enjoyed the problem solving aspects of this challenge. It was rewarding to be named a top performer, considering the competition included many students from other major schools.
Q. What type of work does your information security business do?
A. Right now I do primarily penetration testing and consulting. I enjoy solving problems for my clients, and my business gives me the opportunity to identify potential weaknesses in their network security. Small businesses are now my area of expertise and I really enjoy the work.
Q. So even though you had a successful business, you opted to start an information security degree program. Why?
A. A couple of things made me want to earn a bachelor’s degree. The first was the fact that my brother commissioned as an officer in the armed forces. I started thinking about what it would be like to do work that was meaningful on that level. I know the work I do now is very important for my clients and their customers, but working in service of our whole country is compelling.
The second thing that made me want to get my degree was a meeting with an InfoSec Institute bootcamp instructor. His job entailed training information security professionals for government work, and it was apparent from that meeting that if I wanted to do this type of work, I’d need a degree.
Q. Why Capella?
A. I knew that it was important to choose a school designated by the NSA and DHS as a National Center of Academic Excellence in IA/ CD. Capella had that and the flexibility I needed to manage my business and my classes.
Q. How are your studies going? Any advice for someone who might want to follow in your shoes?
A. I have three classes down and it’s going well. It’s challenging to manage work and studies, but it’s definitely possible to make it all work. To stay on top of daily tasks, I’m a big proponent of keeping a to-do list front and center, and I use a whiteboard to stay on top of tasks. It really helps me to see what I need to do every day and to keep track of my activities.
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