Capella University graduate Dan Hurley was initially inspired to pursue a career in IT because of an influential movie in his childhood.

Here, he talks about his experience in Capella’s BS in Information Technology program, acquiring certifications and digital badges, and the unique opportunities he’s encountered in his career thus far.


Q. Tell us about your background in the U.S. Navy and as a consultant.

A. It’s important to know two data points about my past: First, I grew up spending every summer at my grandparents’ place at the beach. Second, having seen the film War Games at age 8, I begged for and eventually received an IBM PC Jr. as gift.

Later, as I was struggling in my first foray into post-secondary student life, I decided the Navy was the best way for me to get to California or Hawaii and pursue my dream of surfing on the west coast. After a short period in boot camp and sonar school, I was on my way to Pearl Harbor.

On the submarine, I demonstrated the computer skills I had learned growing up. When I wasn’t engaged in Cold War-era cat and mouse games, or just sitting there listening to whales and shrimp, I was using our systems to plot sound velocity profiles or order spare parts for our equipment.

Upon leaving the Navy, I opted to stay in Hawaii and parlayed my security clearance into several consulting jobs. Each role built on the previous and deepened my technical skills.


Q. You spent some time focusing on certifications to advance your career. Do you feel they were beneficial?

A. The many IT-focused positions I held required me to demonstrate my knowledge in certain areas of expertise. Initially, I focused on Microsoft certifications and systems administration, but over time I changed my focus to Cisco certifications and became more of a “Routing and Switching” guy.


Q. Why did you decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree, even after you received several certifications?

A. I knew that getting my degree would allow me to be more valuable to our clients, and my company, in turn, could charge more for my service.

Beyond that, I also knew earning a degree would increase my self-confidence and enable me to explain concepts and sell services to clients in a way I hadn’t been able to in the past.


Q. Why did you choose the IT program at Capella?

A. I knew I wanted to go to school online—local institutions didn’t have the flexibility a working husband and father required. When I began exploring and comparing options, Capella quickly rose to the top. It had the program and reputation I was looking for, and because Capella’s BS in IT program is ABET-accredited, my employer offered tuition assistance, which was another motivation.

I was enrolled for about a year in the program when I noticed a sea change in IT, with more focus on cybersecurity. I requested a change in my program specialization from Networking to Information Assurance and Security, and I never looked back.


Q. You also passed the Certified Information Systems Security Professional | (ISC)² (CISSP) exam after you received your degree. How did Capella prepare you to pass this exam?

A. This to me was a tremendous achievement, and something I’m quite proud of for a variety of reasons.

First, because I achieved many certifications in the past, I knew how the CISSP was perceived—it’s held in high regard, and I had seen many colleagues fail to achieve it. Second, I sat for the exam while in my capstone course for my degree. I knew I would be awarded my degree, but I also understood that I could not work for the DoD in a cybersecurity role without achieving a certification that met specific contractual requirements—for me that meant a CISSP.

Thanks to the thoroughness of Capella’s program, I’m proud to say I achieved the certification. Between the degree and the certification, 2016 was a particularly successful year for me in academics and in my career.


Q. Tell us about your experience with the NSA digital badge.

A. I received the Information Assurance and Security digital badge in July of 2016. Digital badging is a neat plug-in for LinkedIn that allows for immediate verification of an individual’s claim to have completed any number of achievements. I see it as an evolution of the official logos we once added to our resumes.


Q. Do you feel like your program prepared you for your current work?

A. Throughout the majority of my classes at Capella, I was expected to research and write papers on a variety of subjects related to Information Assurance and Security, including network defense and counter measures, forensics and investigations, penetration testing, security policies and procedures, information security governance, and cyber ethics. There were also several technically-focused classes in which I had to log into virtual machines to perform activities and demonstrate my understanding.

I may go on to get my master’s degree, but right now I’m focused on building my skills as a cybersecurity-focused technical writer.


Learn more about Capella’s BS in Information Technology.


Important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended this program.