Early influences shaped cybersecurity professional

Frederick Scholl October 22, 2020

Business students working together on a project.

Linda Thomas, MS ‘20, was introduced to computer programming at her technical high school. It was there she became interested in computers; however, she could not have imagined she would become a cybersecurity professional.

She joined the U.S. Air Force where she completed her bachelor's degree and gained valuable work experience which became the foundation of her professional career.

While stationed in Japan, she started earning credits towards her computer science degree and began her career as an Air Force program specialist working on secret intelligence. Thomas transferred back to the States to complete her military duty.

She graduated with her BS in Computer Science and completed her service the same year. She was ready to begin her civilian life.

Thomas continued to gain computer programming skills through her software development job, self-training classes and formal education. In the late 1990's, she took graduate courses at Quinnipiac in computer science, information systems and others to stay current in her field.

For the same reason, she returned to Quinnipiac twenty years later to earn an MS in Cybersecurity. This combined experience created new opportunities where her expertise led to a new position and a promotion shortly after.

In fact, Thomas is an ambassador of cybersecurity at her company, and she is the go-to person within her work group. With her vast knowledge of systems coupled with excellent communication skills, she helps her co-workers understand the importance of information security and how they can play a vital role in keeping the company's information safe.

According to Thomas, knowledge of cybersecurity is crucial whether you are in data science, computer science or information technology. She goes on to suggest that those who work in accounting and other fields would benefit from a security degree or at least have a general knowledge of information security to manage and protect their data from cyber threats.

Thomas stands out in her field because of her depth of experience, education and dedication to her field. Her work ethic and never-ending quest for knowledge puts her in an invaluable position at any company.

"Dr. Frederick Scholl was one of the most influential professors I had at Quinnipiac," said Thomas.


What was your driving force, your motivation behind getting your MS in Cybersecurity?

As I built software applications within my organization, I was concerned about database security and the authorization into the application by only certain individuals or groups. I wanted to be sure that security was improved and tightened, and I wanted to help other software developers. In addition, I wanted to be a knowledge base for any work unit within our organization and in my private life.

Tell me about a favorite professor and how/why you connected with him/her.

I truly learned something from each professor. Dr. Frederick Scholl was one of the most influential professors I had at Quinnipiac. He worked hard and “went the extra mile” to ensure myself and other students were able to take the necessary courses to graduate on time.

He provided many real-life scenarios that helped me to understand how to make good risk-management and overall data security choices. The Cryptography course was lots of fun, and it turned out to be very beneficial in helping me to build a cryptography program at work.

I apologize if I leave anyone out; however, I’d like to mention other professors who helped to increase my software application development skills such as Professor Wilder with Azure Workloads. He provided a lot of real-life situations and a tremendous amount of feedback.

Professor Jennifer Bayuk introduced me to programming and security in Linux/UNIX and communicating between Linux and Windows. This knowledge assisted me greatly in some work projects in addition to helping me in future courses.

Professor Morrow Long’s courses increased my knowledge of the Python programming language and various Anaconda modules including security tightening with Linux/UNIX/Ubuntu.

The courses on Access Security were very helpful with simplified presentations by Professor Aditya Gupta. Cloud security knowledge is very important and taking the AWS Workloads course from Professor Lawrence Furnival and the Azure Workloads course from Professor Wilder was very beneficial.

When I began the Cybersecurity program in 2018, I was leery about using the cloud; however, now I am very confident that it can be secured when properly administered. Courses on database security by Professor Dennis Klemenz and networking by Professor Andrzej Soliwoda were very beneficial. Other courses on access security and testing were a great help as well.

What course(s) did you find applicable given your current position at work?

The Python programming, the Anaconda, R (data scientist security) and cryptology courses were very beneficial to my work and I know they will be used in future projects. I was able to build a cryptography program.

What was the most influential aspect of the program that you found invaluable?

Risk management strategies are invaluable because they can be utilized across various work units. We must continue methods to identify, mitigate, monitor and report threats in addition to educating computer/software users.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in cybersecurity?

Find something in your life at home, at work or any type of “Internet of Things (IoT)” where you are concerned with tightening security and get the education you need to ensure that you are following the appropriate guidelines, as I did at Quinnipiac.

Each course within the cybersecurity program usually allows for enough time to complete labs and written assignments. You get to communicate with other students. It is also beneficial to help in obtaining a certification in cybersecurity to increase your career credentials.

Seek out any voluntary or part-time internships to gain the hands-on knowledge if not available at your place of employment.

Quinnipiac’s MS in Cybersecurity program gave Thomas the tools to provide valuable insight into security at her company while advancing her career. Whether you are looking to enter the cybersecurity field or are in information security now, find out more about the MS in Cybersecurity curriculum and admission requirements.

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