Michael’s service career shifts to cybersecurity


“The cyber field is fascinating, and I am extremely passionate about starting a career in cybersecurity.”


In September 2001, Michael Alvarado’s life trajectory changed abruptly.

He was working in the school system as a technical support lead while pursuing a degree in computer science, and he was also serving as a reservist in the New Jersey National Guard. In the latter role he volunteered to assist in clearing debris immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

“Witnessing the destruction at the World Trade Center had profoundly affected me,” he says, “and joining the fire service presented a chance to contribute meaningfully to my community and help fill the void left by the tragedy.”

He applied for the position of firefighter at North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue shortly afterwards. But before he was offered a role as a firefighter, he was called-up to serve in Iraq.

Service deployment

“Given our specialization in building large tactical voice and data networks and the need for communications in the theatre of operations overseas, we embarked on an 18-month active-duty deployment,” he says.

“My military occupational specialty was ‘25 Foxtrot—Network Switching Systems Operator/Maintainer.’ I studied communications and networking at the Army Signal Corp in Fort Gordon, Georgia,” he explains.

“The initial six months were dedicated to retrofitting and conducting intensive training exercises with our equipment in the deserts of Fort Bliss Texas followed by a 12-month deployment to Iraq. I was assigned to a Network Operations Center in northern Iraq where I worked to establish, operate and maintain a large communications network.”

Civilian service

“Once we got back home, we were demobilized, and I went back to my civilian job at the school,” he says. “Shortly thereafter, I was called by personnel at North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue and was offered a position as a firefighter.”

He was only able to serve for a year before being called-up for another year-long tour in Iraq. “Upon my return, I served out 14 years at North Hudson Regional where I made the rank of Captain,” he says.

“As fate would have it, in 2019 I suffered an injury at a fire scene that ended my career in the fire service,” he says. “Unfortunately, my days of fighting fires had come to an end, and I had to hang up my helmet.”

Career choices

“This was a big life event, and I had some serious life choices to make. I needed a career change. I combined the two things I loved the most—emergency response and technology—and it totaled cybersecurity incident response.”

“Both firefighting and responding to cybersecurity incidents require quick action, teamwork, constant training, and learning from past events to protect people and assets,” he says. “They share a focus on assessing risks, identifying threats and vulnerabilities, stabilizing incidents, recovery, and working collaboratively to ensure public safety and community security.”

Michael undertook the Cyber Workforce Training Program at Purdue University Northwest, which has a focus on helping transitioning military personnel and first responders, run in collaboration with Golden Bridge Award Winner Ivy Tech Community College, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

A career in cybersecurity

“The Cisco CyberOps Associate course was a transformative experience that revealed the intricate world of cybersecurity, serving as the catalyst for my journey into cybersecurity,” says Michael. “I am currently attending SANS Technology Institute and working towards finishing my Undergraduate Certificate in Applied Cybersecurity.”

“The cyber field is fascinating, and I am extremely passionate about starting a career in cybersecurity,” he says.

With Michael’s commitment to service and passion for lifelong education, he is sure to be a force for good in the cybersecurity field.



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