My adventures in all things computer began as a kid in the 80’s. I didn’t like going outside to play and I was usually bored. My mother picked up a TRS-80 at a yard sale and gave it to me to tinker with and I fell in love with possibilities. I began by going to the school library only to find there was no information for me there about this beautiful little machine I had just obtained, which led me to the city library. This is where I found books on how to program an RPG in BASIC, and it just took off from there. The data was saved to just a standard household cassette recorder, we’ve come a very long way through the years (thank you so much Gordon Moore)!
As time progressed, I did as well, and my next love interest became the C64. This is where I found Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), this is important because I also found back doors to locked boards on accident and this thrilled me even at a young age and not even understanding security yet. At age 16, digital signs became a huge marketing thing for businesses and my mom (my hero) was a manager of multiple businesses at this time. I was asked initially to program the signs. This was followed by teaching people how to program them. I can say that literally everything has come down to RTFM throughout all of my experiences, even though when entering those IRC channels in the 90’s I had no idea the importance of this phrase.
Enter the 90’s, where I discovered Slackware Linux and learned to lock down my ports thanks to those lovely folks that I hung out with in IRC. This is where I met some new protocols, telnet, and ssh being my favorite at this time. I also learned that some hardware was not compatible with the Linux kernel and stayed up sometimes three and four days at a time recompiling a kernel so that the modules for my hardware would work. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is about the time my coffee addiction kicked in either. What happened next in the 90’s threw me right out of the computer loop and love I had for all things digital, and back to my love of music. I needed a degree because everyone leaves high school and goes to college. So, what did I choose? That’s right, music and video production! Not what you were expecting was it? Apparently neither did the 5 children that I gave birth to who were all still 10 years old and under, and so I ended up leaving school altogether.
Paying bills is an important adult thing to do, especially with children. I took my knowledge in the information technology industry and used it to do project-based work to support my children. Working on projects allowed me to earn money to support them, while also allowing me the freedom to decline projects if the oldest child damaged one of his siblings. I still apologize about the Blockbuster server incident, but that was a nasty fight over a packet of hot cocoa, and while there may be five children, I wasn’t trying to get rid of any.
Before this gets too lengthy, let’s bring us to 2018 when I decided to get my degree because I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, a cyber security expert (yes, still working on it). I began attending Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) and joined the cyber league before my first term even officially started and was invited to play the National Cyber League (NCL) Spring 2018 capture-the-flag (CTF). I was scared and excited as I think everyone initially is when they start playing NCL. I found it a better learning experience than my classes I had taken as it is fully immersive.
In Spring 2019, I attended my first ever professional development conference, WiCyS 2019 in Pittsburgh, PA. In that moment, I knew I was in the exact field where I belonged; life had gone full circle. By the time of the conference, I had two seasons of NCL under my belt. I was so stoked about it that I just HAD to tell everyone to try it when I encountered new people. I was motivated, enlightened, and excited by all this new information and all the new people I connected with and felt I needed to make a difference in this world, and encouraging others to follow this path that were interested was my way to do so.
When I saw the post saying they were recruiting for Player Ambassadors, I immediately applied and hoped I’d be selected. I’m now working on my master’s degree in cyber security still at SNHU and enjoy helping others learn, as well as encouraging them to participate as often as possible, especially if they’re new to CTF’s. It’s only scary until you jump in and try it, then you find you know more than you thought you knew.