From Cameroon to a Baltimore community college: How Camilla became a security analyst


"I needed to learn how to protect myself and my kids."


Editor's note: After working with the United Nations in a volunteer capacity helping internally displaced people in South Sudan, Camilla immigrated to the United States from Cameroon with two young children. Growing up, Camilla didn't have access to computers. Here's the story of how she raised her daughters while studying to become a security analyst.

Asking questions, finding answers

"I was interested in cybersecurity but needed the basics," says Camilla. "I didn't grow up with technology – we didn't have access to computers. When I was in my teens I'd go to a cybercafé and spend some time on the Internet."

This relative lateness coming to technology also brought questions for Camilla, such as: "What happens to all the information that goes on the Internet? What about all of the financial transactions I do online? How does all of this information get protected? How does this work? Then when my daughters grew up, I was wondering how to keep them safe – what are they watching and what are they looking at?"

"I needed to learn how to protect myself and my kids and I became more and more interested," she says.

So Camilla enrolled in the Cisco Networking Academy Program at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), all while juggling part-time work at night to support her family.

"I learned about networking. That was so very important because if you don't know how the network works, you won't know how to protect the data. In cybersecurity, knowledge of the network and networking itself is very important."

"I loved it," says Camilla. "There's an online practical tool called Packet Tracer that lets you build your own virtual network, put in your commands, and then you can see if it connects or not."

Accessible learning from great teachers

"The courses are in small topics and paired with small practice sessions, which are easy to process especially for those of us who came into IT at a later age. Just getting accustomed to the terms was very important."

"And I had a great teacher, Professor Vinitha Nithianandam – Vinnie. She's a wonderful lady at CCBC. We had a Women in Tech Club and got a lot of support. If we didn't understand something Vinnie would find time to help us."

"We also had a Cyber Club where we could go and discuss issues, and recruiters and companies would come and speak about how the real world is, giving us advice on how IT progresses, what types of certifications you need, what type of attitude you need as well."

"In my internship, the more I progressed, the more I could contribute to discussions in meetings. I could bring up ideas about how to approach issues. One of my tasks was to reach out to users (faculty members or students), so even the professional language of how to go about this – like speaking to the Dean even – gave me more and more confidence."

From seeing role models to becoming one

"Meeting women who had gone through this before me was good for me. When Women in Tech organizes talks, I go back to the college to encourage others."

"Networking Academy has been a critical part of the progression of my career," says Camilla. "Without the networking knowledge that I got from the Program, I wouldn't be able to impact my teams the way I have. My career growth wouldn't have been what it was. I started as an intern and now I'm a Security Analyst with a consulting firm working with financial institutions."

"The Program taught me the foundation that I was looking for," she says. "The colleagues or peers of mine who didn't do networking have a lot of difficulties investigating issues. You need to understand the network. With Networking Academy, we learned that. It really helped and was critical to what I do now."


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