Will Inman: Lifelong techie learns to speak InfoSec

About Will Inman

Certificate in Stanford Advanced Computer Security, Stanford University

System Design and Integration Specialist

"It's opened so many doors for me - in this day and age you really need to know about cybersecurity to excel in any IT field."

Who says video games are a waste of time? If you're Will Inman, an early passion for online gaming can help you learn the basics of networking and set you on the path toward a career in IT. He spent a lot of time in his youth configuring his NAT and internet settings to get the best performance when gaming online, as well as researching new network components and software when they became available.

With a number of impressive qualifications already to his name - he's a Cisco Certified Network Associate and holds a CompTIA Security+ certification - Will's resume would wow any HR manager. But the IT world moves quickly, and he knows as well as anyone that you can't get complacent and fall behind the times.

Why did you decide to pursue professional education?

My field of work demands a broad IT skill set, and academic courses and masters programs would take too long to get to the point. Professional education allows you to home in on a specific topic and how it relates to your daily workflow. People like me need focused and direct courses that provide actionable knowledge I can use immediately in the real world. I don't necessarily have time to "go back to school," so to speak, and I need that information in a much shorter time frame.

What led you to choose the Stanford Advanced Computer Security certificate?

A colleague was enrolled in an online learning course to support his work with our InfoSec team. In particular, he needed to better understand the potential threats to frameworks that are out there. He searched around and took courses in a few places, but he really recommended Stanford Advanced Computer Security certificate because it's easily accessible, fits your lifestyle and you can do it on your own time. He told me, "You're going to learn something from this – they have the best faculty in the world."

How has the course work helped you in your current role?

A lot! My current role revolves around testing new products - I'm essentially the gateway to implementing them in the organization. My job is to vet these products and understand what potential threats they may present to our infrastructure if connected to the internet. Take a new application for a server, for example. I need to see if it's susceptible to buffer overflows, cross-site injections, malware - you name it. I create the environments where testers can probe for vulnerabilities. Our lab tests hardware, applications and proof of concepts - everything that comes to my desk is a new product with potential threats to the company. I need to help vet them and communicate with security teams to see if these items pass their assessments. With all of these products coming in brand new and untested, it leaves a lot of questions and potential for vulnerabilities. We need to understand how to mitigate any potential risk.

What did you enjoy most about your experience?

The clarity and how well they explain these concepts was very enjoyable. It made learning easy and I felt like I was getting a lot of educational value - similar to a classroom. It helped me speak the language and be able to communicate with colleagues in InfoSec and other people I collaborate with in the field. I feel like I'm much more "in the know" and on the same page with our security teams now. It's opened so many doors for me - in this day and age you really need to know about cybersecurity to excel in any IT field.

Do you have a favorite course? If so, which one?

XACS255 Network security - it's my primary work. I do data center networking that provides customers with their testing environments. The professors and video lectures were very helpful, the diagrams were extremely useful (I'm a visual learner) and the way they explain concepts was perfect.

How has completing the certificate impacted your career?

It's a well-recognized certificate on par with what my peers view as a Certified Information Systems Security Professional or Certified Information Security Manager. Those are some hard certs to achieve and I would put this one right up there along with them. I've been recruited by numerous companies since then, and they all actually ask me about the certificate.

I began getting contacted by hiring managers from other companies not long after I updated my resume and online profile with the certificate. I was offered an interview for a manager position on threat modeling, and during the interview, they asked me fundamental questions about cybersecurity (mobile applications, network security, security design, etc.) and I was able to answer them confidently because I spoke the language and had a well-rounded understanding of the core concepts. It definitely impressed them, and I felt like I could talk the talk. The courses basically gave me everything I needed to interview for security-focused roles.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in the program?

This program is flexible and your initial interest and curiosity can actually turn into a valuable skill set. You have the opportunity to learn from the best faculty out there, and there's really no reason to say no. Every IT professional needs to know this stuff regardless of what their current role is - you have to be prepared for the world we live in today.

It's absolutely worth it - you're making an investment in yourself and your professional IT career. The time commitment is pretty minimal: It's only six courses, and you can work them into your own schedule whenever you're ready or have the funds. Just take the leap!

The Stanford Center for Professional Development is meant for "professionals" who want to set themselves up for something better - whether that's a new position, a salary bump or career change. If you're on the fence and considering paying for a higher priced certificate with another big "name," just know that this provides you with that same knowledge and there's no expiration on that education. You will ALWAYS have this and be proud of it.