Eric Robinson: Learning the Offense and Defense of Cyber Security

Professional Certificate, Stanford Advanced Computer Security

After a personal experience with his own computer being compromised, Eric Robinson took action. Angered by the malicious attack, he channeled his inner superhero and launched a new career that would prevent the same thing happening to others. He became a security professional in cyberspace and hasn’t looked back since.  

"The material was well-balanced and gave me a better understanding of the technological implementations I have to work with on a daily basis."

What initially interested you in pursuing the Stanford Advanced Computer Security certificate?

I have over 17 years of experience in information technology and 14+ years of industry experience in the information security field, with recent work in the healthcare and energy sectors. For the last two years, I’ve managed a team responsible for security administration, operations and engineering at Premera Blue Cross. Prior to this, I was an enterprise security architect. It was a role I really enjoyed and one I will be taking on again. Since a lot has changed in the evaluation, design and implementation of cyber security controls in the last decade, I took the Stanford certificate program so I could update my skills and be prepared for my transition.

How has the program helped you so far with this job change?

From a career perspective, I went from a technical to a management role and I wanted to get back to the technical. When I looked at my tool belt, I realized it was a little dusty. I searched all around the world (no joke) for online programs. I settled on Stanford because 1) it’s a world-class university and, more importantly, 2) the courses were addressing all the real-world problems I have to deal with in my job. The material was well-balanced and gave me a better understanding of the technological implementations I have to work with on a daily basis.

What was your favorite course?

Emerging Threats and Defenses - I go to security conferences every year and they’re always about potential cyber threats. What they don’t give you is how to defend against them; that’s the part I really like. This class gives you the offense as well as the defense—the stuff companies actually value in an employee.

What has been the most rewarding part of earning the certificate?

The program was a lot more challenging than I originally anticipated. The technical depth was way beyond what I expected. I’ve been working in technology for a long time and in a variety of industries. From developing smart meters to securing health care information, my experience led me to believe I could breeze through the program—watch a few video lectures, take the exams, and be done. I was wrong. I had to work hard. That made it a rewarding process. I feel like I really earned the education.

What advice can you give someone starting the program to help them succeed?

Don’t underestimate it and persevere. I wanted a quick and comprehensive program so I dedicated chunks of time every week to really absorb the material and focus my attention on it. That may make it sound like you can just check a box every week and move on to the next part, but it’s not like that. If you’re thinking you can coast through the material and get a certificate at the end, this isn’t the program for you. You need to be prepared, but in the best way possible. You’ll learn new things so allow time to let it sink in.