Why I Became a Player Ambassador – JeanaByte

In order to tell you why I became a National Cyber League (NCL) Player Ambassador, I’ll have to go back a few years. And when I say a few, I mean five.

Picture it. Westchester, New York, 2015. There I was, a bright-eyed, bushy tailed, freshman nursing major at Pace University. I know what you’re thinking: “How in the world did you end up here?” Well, I was a terrible nursing major. I was absolutely miserable by the end of freshman year and I knew I couldn’t handle another three years of nursing school.

Two days before move out, I sat in my dorm room having a complete meltdown. I knew I wanted to change majors, but I had no idea what I wanted to do, how to change my major, or how to break the news to my parents because, at 19, the thought of letting my parents down was definitely the scariest part of the entire process.

So I sat down and scrolled through the list of every major Pace offered. I couldn’t see myself doing any of them, except for computer science. The only class I enjoyed and did well in was an Introduction to Computing class, which was pretty much a how to use Excel and an absolute bare bones of coding in HTML.

Hindsight being what it is, that class had absolutely nothing to do with computer science, but it did help me figure out that I liked working with computers and figuring out how things work.

Going into sophomore year I was more nervous than I thought I would be. It was a fresh start (which I definitely needed), but along with that fresh start came all of those feelings that you have at the start of freshman year. I felt lost and alone and it seemed like everyone else had already found their friends, so I just kept my head down and did my work that first semester, hoping that I would eventually find my place and my path.

I started getting involved with Pace’s CS community the second half of sophomore year, and while that was only one club meeting a week, it definitely opened me up to a world of opportunities and friendships that I would have never imagined, and at the time, I desperately needed it. I found a faculty mentor that took me under her wing and found every way to help me succeed. By the end of that semester, I had somehow been voted in as secretary of the Seidenberg Tech Collective. I had finally found my family.

Junior year. The year that changed it all.

I met Kait the very first week of the school year (though I’m pretty sure she has zero recollection of us meeting that day). Within a few weeks, Kait and our faculty mentor, Andreea, had convinced me to join the NCL team (I also very much owed Andreea one for basically handing me a job as student assistant the second week of the school year). I was definitely hesitant about this whole cybersecurity thing and kept trying to tell Kait that I didn’t want to do cybersecurity. Totally thought I was just going to code for the rest of my career and that was that. Boy was I wrong, and I could not be more grateful for that.

After just two semesters of me being a player, Kait told Andreea that she wanted me to be the next coach. So there I was, the start of my senior year, standing in front of a group of over 20 students, almost entirely male, with pretty much no idea how to be a coach, but I somehow made it work and eventually figured out the whole coaching thing. Kait helped me plan a schedule based on her slightly unconventional methods. She calls it her “Super Informal Learning Objectives” which translates to Kait made it up one day, stuck by it, and has seen a lot of success with it, but also didn’t want to formalize it because that would be more work. But other than a basic idea of what to cover each practice, I was on my own.

This past July, when Kait came up with this whole idea of an entire board of Player Ambassadors, I pretty much had no choice but join it. I think her exact words were, “I’m starting a Player Ambassador Board and I’m voluntelling you that you’re on it.” I mean I probably could’ve said no, but I really did want to be involved with this endeavor. When I graduated, the idea that I would would have to stop playing NCL was extremely disappointing. NCL brought me to Chicago and to Pittsburgh to help Kait teach about how amazing it is. Honestly, I think NCL is the best first competition for new players or people just starting out in cybersecurity. I found my passion and my path with NCL and there was no way I could give that up.

Essentially, I became a Player Ambassador because I wanted to continue helping people. My desire to help people was why I went into nursing at first. When I shifted into CS I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do that, but NCL has given me the ability to do exactly what I set out to do, and I hope to continue on this adventure in the years to come.

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