Graduate Testimonial: Pamela Bleve

I was here exactly a year ago at the 12th National Cybersecurity Awareness Month as one of the 3 members of the winner team, presenting our project for the first Cybersecurity Skill Competition at Mercy College. I remember well the emotions that we all felt, and looking backward to that time, I am so thankful that we were part of that event. Like the newest winner team, we learned a lot from this experience. We started our project without any knowledge at all. After one year, what has happened to me? I have consolidated my passion for cybersecurity, my desire to deeply understand and create my own products, and mostly I am grateful because I have found two great friends, not only two teammates. Last but not least, being actively in this competition has been a good presentation of myself to job recruiters, like a personal business card.

I just graduated few months ago and I can report you my experience on the job search. I have been just hired as a Security Engineer at Cybereason but I faced different interviewers before and different job offer letters. Mostly I was asked about the competition project. Extremely detailed questions on aircrack-ng suite in Kali Linux, which encryption types we were able to crack and which kind of attacks. I noticed with great satisfaction that we made the right choice attending the Cybersecurity program here. We have classes and very competent professors that are helping us to enter the industry. Constantly our professors give us an introduction of thousands of interesting new topics. I personally decided to take seriously my master program, and starting from their helpful inputs, I wanted to build my project deliverables. During my job hunting, the recruiters asked me to show them part of my projects. They also asked me about topics that I had heard during a single lesson at Mercy. I can give you an example. I have been selected as the finalist candidate for a software architect job position. When we were talking about secure database design, data integrity, secure transaction processing in a distributed database system, I remembered what Dr. Chen was teaching us in “Internet Media and Security” class. I used that acquired knowledge to explain the distributed two-phase lock, the two-phase commit protocol and how to acquire or release the lock for concurrency problems. I was asked about eventually consistency for NoSQL databases versus RDBMS. My current boss wanted me to explain the storage in the tree structures (Binary tree, Linked List, Logic Structure Merge Tree) and the complexity for search, insertion and deletion in logarithm time O(log n). I have to say thanks to Dr. Chen’s class.

I have other examples of why I am still in love with Mercy College’s program. I have been encouraged by Dr. Yoon to keep my passion for development and use it for Cybersecurity purposes. Since I have been a Software Engineer for years, I decided to develop my web application and attack my own code. Following Dr. Yoon’s class and his precious teachings, I did it and I discovered how unsecure and vulnerable a script was. I have been able to detect and exploit attack flaws and taking over of MySQL database server. After attacking it, I also found a defense for my database, improving the quality of my code. This kind of project made me realize how important is attending a cybersecurity program, even before being a developer.

Another class that I really enjoyed is “Mobile Tech and Wireless Services”. It’s extremely interesting. We have the opportunity to learn how to combine hardware and software. This class give us the flexibility to choose any project related to sensors. Have you ever heard about the polygraph? Why don’t we build our own polygraph to deeply understand how it works? That’s what I did with a classmate. It was fun to design the circuit, build a lie detector using Arduino Uno micro-controller and then implement a python program to save streaming sensors data and generate plot interfaces to analyze the graphs and finally verify if it was a lie or not.

I have so many memorable experiences here as a former student. Talking about why this entire program was extremely helpful for my career, I can tell you my last anecdote. In a 4 hours on-site interview, we talked about my interest in cryptography. We started with the Diffie-Hellman key Exchange project which I did with Kevin. They asked me to write in front of them the mathematical formula to generate a shared private key. We switched to RSA, AES and then at the end, I directly wrote an encrypted thank you email to my current boss, using the Caesar Cypher Encryption. Finally, I received a welcome aboard letter.

It’s hard to explain all the intense emotions lived here at Mercy, with the professors, the staff and my classmates. It has been an incredible experience that I will always remember with a smile. Thank you for having made me feel part of a community, part of a family. For the new students, I would encourage you to challenge yourself, to do hands-on projects and as a recommendation from your older sister…please pay attention to every single lesson! Good luck!