(RED OAK, Texas) – Keaton O’Neal grew up in Palmer in Ellis County and has an Associate of Applied Science degree in Cybersecurity from Texas State Technical College. The Waxahachie resident is a system support specialist at the Waxahachie Independent School District.
What got you interested in studying cybersecurity?
I got interested in cybersecurity like every other kid does by watching hacker movies and playing Watch Dogs, a video game. It made me think about what the bad people are doing, and what are the good people doing to stop it?
Going to a big four-year university was going to be expensive for me and was not an option. I started looking at technical schools, and when I was looking at TSTC, it seemed like a financially viable option for me. I could go to night classes after work and get a degree and go into a career that I am passionate about.
What is a typical workday like for you?
An average day for me is watching for security alerts that come in and handling those, mitigating those and just accepting the risk of those. We have a bring-your-own device program, so students have their cell phones with them. If we get a security alert from a personal device and depending on what it is, we might handle it or just ignore it, or let the teacher know. I also spend time checking on network equipment and watching availability issues with Wi-Fi. I also handle technical issues at one of our campuses.
How do you stay informed about new technology?
A lot of that is extracurricular for me. A lot of my time is spent currently understanding what is going on in our environment. I do some online training myself. I try to keep an eye on what is going on in the information security realm with Twitter and different people I follow there, like malware reverse engineers.
What kind of career advice would you give to others?
For high school students, they are in the best position, especially if they can get their homework done on time. They have all that time after school to put it into studying something. If you can take that time and put it into something, you will become good at it. If someone is completely starting from zero, like never touched a computer before, I would probably say you need to start with hardware, like understanding how computers work, and build from there.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, computer network support specialists in Texas make a yearly median salary of more than $70,000. Most jobs are concentrated in the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio areas.
TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Cybersecurity, a Certificate of Completion in Digital Forensic Specialist and an Occupational Skills Award in Basic Cybersecurity. All programs are offered online using the performance-based education model.
For more information, go to tstc.edu.