Lynn Houston

Harford Community College student Lynn Houston made a life-changing move in 2018 to take a position at Aberdeen Proving Ground and simultaneously began her studies in cybersecurity at Harford. In addition to its proximity and affordability, it was important to Lynn that Harford’s Cyber Defense program was listed as a National Center of Cyber Excellence in Education by the National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS). "There are many online certificates in cybersecurity these days, but Harford's distinguishes itself by maintaining this accreditation," said Lynn.

The Cybersecurity program at Harford has helped Lynn transition from a career that frustrated her and didn't utilize all her skills into a more lucrative career that excites and challenges her, as well as serves a greater good. Lynn was recently selected for the highly competitive Federal Cyber Reskilling program, which was started in 2019 by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the President's Management Council as a way for current federal employees from other job series to transition into the cybersecurity field.

Lynn started out in the Cyber Defense certificate program but realized that it would only take a couple more courses to earn an associate degree in cybersecurity. She"s six credits away from earning her certificate and plans to finish her associate degree requirements before the end of this year. She was surprised by the amount of hands-on work the cyber program had the students doing even from the very first classes. She expected to have to sit through weeks of theory and concepts before actually getting into command line manipulation or using applications to monitor network traffic, but she found they were doing those things (with easy-to-follow instructions for beginners) from very first courses she took.

Lynn's instructors at Harford, especially Frank Mayer, Albert Charles Richardson and Russell Burchill, have been instrumental in helping her determine her next steps after earning her degree. They have hosted several career events, introduced her to industry professionals, forwarded her projects to their contacts to promote greater exposure of her skillset, and coached her on the job market. Says Lynn, "There are many different sub-specialties in the field of cybersecurity, and one of the greatest gifts my Harford instructors gave me is to help me understand how my skills and interests fit best into this evolving field. Such an understanding has helped me to concentrate my efforts and narrow my job search so that the process of transitioning to new career is not overwhelming." Lynn says she would absolutely recommend Harford to other students, especially if they are looking to learn leading-edge technical skills and be well-prepared to sit for industry certification exams. "Instructors and staff at Harford go out of their way to make sure you have everything you need to do well in the job market."

Lynn was also impressed by the quality of online education provided by Harford. It was evident to her that faculty uses best practices for teaching in an online environment, such as encouraging interaction and discussion between students and successfully replicating the pace and feedback one would expect from an in-person class. "When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I looked forward to logging on to MS Teams weekly for a lively lecture in my Cisco course, where we all checked in on each other and asked about our loved ones' health. We still got to know each other well in the online environment, and we have promised to try to get together when it is safe to do so, even though our course will be over. Some of us have specifically planned to take our next Cisco course together so we can spend more time together."

Says Lynn, "More than just an education, Harford Community College provided me with a community of like-minded people who were eager to share their knowledge and resources."