In the rapidly evolving field of cybersecurity, creating pathways for students to enter and excel is crucial. Josiah Alexander, a computer science major with a concentration in network security at the New York Institute of Technology, serves as an exemplary example of how such pathways can be established. His journey, driven by passion and supported by educational programs and mentorship, highlights the importance of comprehensive support systems.
Josiah's journey into information technology began during his first summer with the IAC fellowship, where he gained exposure to software engineering and cybersecurity. According to the program’s website, “this eight to ten-week summer program provides Fellows with the resources, education and experiences to excel not only in academics and career pursuits, but to build successful and satisfying lives. The primary elements of the program include: (1) paid internships at IAC’s brands, (2) $5,000 academic stipends at the end of the program, (3) educational and cultural field trips and speaking engagements, and (4) opportunities to build lasting relationships with senior leaders across the organization. Internships span departments and specialties, from software development to marketing.”
Working closely with a mentor, Josiah developed a deep interest in the field of cybersecurity and witnessed the genuine enthusiasm of industry professionals. These experiences laid the foundation for his pursuit of a career in cybersecurity.
Currently progressing in the field, Josiah is immersing himself in studying for the Network+ certification and completing courses from TryHackMe. While he acknowledges the significance of certifications, he understands the need for constant adaptation due to the ever-changing landscape of cybersecurity. This mindset positions him well for success in the field.
Josiah's study habits and dedication can be attributed to his upbringing in Jamaica Queens, New York. Starting from the third grade, he diligently completed studies through Khan Academy that complemented his regular schoolwork, helping to foster both academic discipline and delayed gratification. Additionally, his involvement in robotics during middle school further solidified his interest in technology and problem-solving.
Josiah's involvement in the Breakthrough New York (BTNY) program since sixth grade also played a pivotal role in his growth. BTNY provided comprehensive support to students, guiding them through middle school, high school, college, and even into the workforce. Through BTNY, Josiah discovered the IAC fellowship program, which opened doors to invaluable networking opportunities and mentorship.
Josiah aspires to become an author who rekindles people's interest in the power of literature. He also intends to contribute to the evolution of cybersecurity and utilize his knowledge to assist others. He recommends that students pursue CompTIAA+ during high school to acquire a solid foundation in hardware, networking, and computer systems, emphasizing the importance of mastering fundamentals early on. Creating pathways for students in cybersecurity requires intentional efforts and continuous support throughout their journey. It involves building bridges of opportunity and collaboration between community resources, schools, and students, enabling them to align their passions, gifts, and career interests.
Josiah's inspiring journey showcases the immense potential of comprehensive support systems in creating pathways for students in cybersecurity. By providing guidance, mentorship, and exposure to relevant programs and certifications, we can empower students to achieve their goals and reach their full potential. With continued intentionality, we can bridge gaps, foster connectivity, and pave the way for future cybersecurity professionals to thrive.
Dr. Marcus Bright is a social impact facilitator and the author of Brighter Ways Forward: Reflections on Sports, Tech, and Socioeconomic Mobility