How Richard uses neurodiversity as a superpower in CyberOps


“I was full of so much joy when I was asked to join the team. It made me feel like all the work I had put in meant something. I had accomplished this goal!”


Richard had his sights set on a career in social work. Despite his neurodivergence, he had earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work. But when he started an internship in the field, he realized it may not be his calling.

Choosing strengths

Richard approached the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) to help him find a vocation that suited his aptitudes.

With guidance from MRC, Richard developed an interest in the Cisco Academy Cybersecurity Program at Holyoke Community College. The intensive cybersecurity program for people with disabilities was piloted by Holyoke Community College and the MRC in 2020. As part of that initial cohort, Richard faced the extra hurdle of pandemic shutdowns and remote learning.

"I had never taken part in a virtual classroom like this before," he says. Not only was the subject matter new to him, but also the virtual classes could have proved too challenging, but Richard persisted with the help of the Academy Instructors.

"The instructors were hands-on and did everything they could to prepare us for the program," says Richard.

Finding a job

After a challenging and intensive nine months of study, Richard graduated with Cisco Certified Network Associate and Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate qualifications and turned to MRC again for help finding a job.

Through MRC’s Neurodiversity in the Workplace program, Richard prepared himself for job interviews and professional development. While undertaking the two-week program, Richard was interviewed by hiring managers from a leading international technology company and was offered an internship, which ultimately led to the offer of a full-time job as Senior Analyst.


Richard says the Academy Program prepared him well for the role. "I rely on the knowledge and terminology from my program, especially data and privacy space in my work,” he says.

Thanks to the Academy Program and the work of partners such as Holyoke Community College, people living with disabilities can earn industry-recognized certification and find meaningful employment in fields that continue to grow. Richard feels the Cisco program allowed him to get his foot in the door of the exciting and evolving IT world.



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