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Speaking with Students at Vector Technology Institute’s Open Day in Jamaica

A few weeks ago, August 18, 2017, I was privileged enough to be invited by Vector Technology Institute to be a part of a 2-member discussion panel for their latest batch of students at their campus’ Open Day event. The other privileged member was Craig Gregory, an IT manager at VXI Jamaica Ltd.

The background of the discussion was to provide the students with a face-to-face platform to speak with positive young influencers in ICT and help to prepare them mentally to learn and eventually start a career in ICT. First off, it was a very warm and enlightening experience for me and I hope it was motivational and inspiring for everyone who attended.

From left: Gavin Dennis, formerly of OpenWave Information Security Ltd, and Craig Gregory of VXI Jamaica Ltd

Why this discussion mattered to me

In almost every student present I could see a little of myself from when I started my first job in 2007. I didn’t initially start out in InfoSec or even the broader IT (Information Technology). My first job was an audit and accounting firm in Jamaica. It made sense because I studied accounting and business-related subjects in high school and start pursuing an accounting certification less than a month after graduating. Despite that, throughout high school and my days in audit and accounting, I was heavily messing with computers like I’m ‘that guy from tech support’. When I decided I want to switch, I already had 5 years’ experience split in Auditing and Accounting. My first realisation was passing CISA by ISACA at the December 2012 sitting, while in an accounting role. My experience over the years allowed me to emphasise to the students that I am a product of passion, smart and hard work. Although the transition wasn’t easy or quick, it allowed me to share a real experience with them of my non-traditional route and breaking into IT like a hacker (corny pun intended).

My advice to the students in a nutshell

I shared some suggestions and advice which was based on my experience and what I’ve learnt along the way.

Technical Skills

  • Learn as much from your courses and develop a good base to grow.
  • Follow news and trends in IT
  • Learn about the different areas of IT and specialise later.

Non-technical skills

  • Learn to show empathy – try to understand what others are going through.
  • Learn to accept criticism gracefully and grow from it.
  • Taking Initiative to make things better
  • Practice good communication
  • Learn to write formally and think critically
  • Admit when you’re wrong and move on
  • Know which battles to fight and think about the ‘Big Picture’

If you’re planning to build a future in the Technology field, find someone already in your area of interest and speak with them. They will likely be able to point you in a good direction to get started. If you’re seriously interested in InfoSec, I’m here to support you where I can. The online community is also pretty helpful.

Thank you VTI

Whole-hearted thanks to Dr Wayde Marr, Ms Andrienne Marr, Ms Tina McKenzie, Andrew Nooks (of OpenWave Information Security Ltd.), the students, and the rest of the Vector Technology Institute family who made that day possible and great.

About author

Hi, I'm Gavin and I'm a Cyber Security Professional. I help companies and people to secure their digital assets. I've worked with companies across Europe, Africa, Asia and North America (especially the Caribbean). Let's talk.
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