Graduate Student Spotlight | Harold Rivas

Harold Rivas

Hood alum, Harold Rivas, earned an undergraduate degree in Art & Archaeology. He is currently enrolled in Hood's Cybersecurity Master's program.

Harold Rivas, M.S. Cybersecurity

Program

  • Cybersecurity (M.S., C)
  • Project Management (C)

Department

  • Computer Science & Information Technology

"All of the cybersecurity classes are very interesting and well taught. There is a lot of flexibility, and I learned things in class as well as on my own. I would say that the program was definitely tailored to my needs"

Please share your educational and professional background.

I started my Hood College undergraduate journey as a Computer Science (CS) major but changed it to Art and Archeology three semesters in. My focus was on studio and fine arts and I really enjoyed it, but kept CS as my minor.

After graduating in 2012, I volunteered at the Delaplaine Center for Arts and worked in retail for a while. Nevertheless, I felt I wanted to go back to school and finish up my CS degree.

After talking to George Dimitoglou, D.Sc., I decided to do something completely different – get my Masters in Cybersecurity.

Could you please tell us more about your journey, as one of your professors remarked - “From Art & Archeology to Cyber Warrior"?

I loved my undergraduate Hood College experience.  The small classes and the personal connections I had with the professors were priceless. 

I visited Hood with the goal of finishing up my CS degree, and met with Dr. Dimitoglou, who presented me with a completely different idea - getting my Masters in Cybersecurity.

I was not familiar with this industry nor did I know anything about this topic. It piqued my interest and I decided to pursue it. I took a couple of classes and absolutely loved it. Soon after, I became a full-time student, and started applying for cyber-related jobs.

Even though COVID happened, it did not discourage me. This past summer, I decided to further my chances of getting a job and acquire several certifications. I just completed my Security Plus certification, as well as Network Plus. These certifications helped me enormously in my job interviews, and I actually just got a job offer in IT.

Transitioning out of art was just as challenging as entering the cybersecurity world. It was hard realizing that art might not be the right path for me.

Once I realized that art was more of a hobby, I knew I needed to transition to cybersecurity and move forward. Now I love cyber classes and I finally know I am on the right career path.

As someone who had little to no background in Cybersecurity, how difficult was your transition?

The transition was not as difficult as I thought. I already had my retail experience and I have gotten through a lot of challenges which left me with a lot of confidence. I knew that as long as I did my part, I would be in good shape.

All of the Hood cybersecurity classes are very interesting and well taught. There is a lot of flexibility, and I learned things in class as well as on my own. I would say that the program was definitely tailored to my needs.

What are some of your future plans? 

I am currently doing my capstone project which is the last part of my graduate program.

I am also involved in the Project Management certificate program. I wanted to explore the management side of my interests a bit more and I am looking forward to earning that certification.

I would like to build on my experience and obtain a cybersecurity analyst job. I really want to throw myself into the cybersecurity field and see what is out there.

Things change year by year in this industry and there are just so many different opportunities and pathways.

Gaining the necessary experience is definitely one of the first steps I would like to take, and then explore more options and keep learning.

What advice would you give to others who might be thinking of a career change?

It is never too late to change your career!

Take some time to explore what really interests you. Do not feel rushed as everyone is on their own timeline.

Do not feel like you are locked down to only one career path. Do not get intimidated and take things at your own pace. Also, try to leave some time to pursue your passions.

Click here to view a short video of Harold Rivas.

Inspired by Harold's story to #GOFURTHER in your education? Learn more about Hood College's Graduate School and Masters in Cybersecurity by clicking here.