How can I put into words what Whatcom Community College's Computer Information Systems program has done for me? The program has the reputation for getting incredible results in two years. All of which is true, but I do not want prospective students to get the impression that by simply enrolling in this program they will graduate two years later and move directly into a position at (insert cool tech company name here). The truth is I've never worked harder at anything in my life.
The majority of my time at WCC I have held down two jobs in addition to working at the school's student help desk fixing staff and students' computers free of charge. I have done every extracurricular activity I could think of to increase my skills for a tech-oriented labor market. My social life for the last 18 months has been nearly non-existent. I have even enjoyed the odd experience of waking in the middle of the night to find myself writing scripting commands on my bedroom wall with an imaginary marker. Stress can make you do amazing things.
I received a bachelor's degree in psychology from Western Washington University, a school I absolutely adore. I bleed Viking Blue. The three years I spent on its beautiful campus were some of the most intellectually enlightening years of my life. I attribute my critical thinking skills and my understanding of the scientific method to Western and for that I am forever grateful. Unfortunately, I received my degree a year after the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. There was simply no job market for a social science major and as the forbearance on my student loans was coming to an end I knew I had to do something.
I have always been great with computers and began researching computer certifications. I stumbled upon Whatcom Community College's Computer Information Systems program when researching local colleges offering Cisco Certified Network Associate training courses. WCC's program places a special emphasis on cyber security, a specialization our country is desperately lacking among its work force. With my interest piqued and eager to learn, I went to the college the next day and enrolled.
The incredible thing about WCC's computer program is that its small group of highly talented instructors will train anyone regardless of their background in computers, if they are willing to work hard. Over the last year I've spoken with many people who feel they are not conversant enough in computers to make it through the program. This is simply not true in my experience. While some students may feel intimidated initially, by the second year the students who appeared to know everything about computers at the start of the program were moving through the advanced coursework at the same rate as every other student.
It was during this second year I began to realize the amount of highly employable knowledge I had amassed. I spent several months working with fellow WCC student Christina Saunders putting together a presentation for Linuxfest Northwest 2013. Our topic of choice was penetration testing, which is the act of looking for security holes in a computer system and patching the holes before a person with malicious intent can exploit the vulnerability. This is an extremely popular subject within the computer industry as evidenced by the turnout of more than 200 people for our presentation, exceeding the seating capacity of the room.
The highlight of my time spent at WCC came when we received an audible gasp from the audience -- filled with skilled technologists, mind you -- as we decimated a web server right before their eyes. Christina and I subsequently spent 30 minutes answering questions on the topic of cyber security. This may sound cheesy, but it was one of best feelings of my life.
In the end I can only speak to my own experience and others who embark on a similar journey may be met with varying degrees of success dependent on their station in life and personal work ethic. As I write this, I am interviewing for jobs. My future is uncertain and yet I find myself optimistic and confident about that future for the first time. This is what Whatcom Community College has done for me.
ABOUT WINDOW ON MY WORLD
Window On My World is an occasional essay in Monday's Bellingham Herald that allows Whatcom County residents to share their passion for what they do, an idea or cause they support. Send your Window On My World, which must be no more than 700 words, to Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott Sisco grew up in Ephrata, Wash. After earning his Associate Degree at Spokane Falls Community College, he moved to Bellingham in 2006 to attend WWU and then Whatcom Community College. He will earn an Associate in Science Computer Information Systems degree from WCC. Sisco is currently interviewing with companies on the West and East coasts. Whatcom offers more than 40 Professional Technical Associate Degrees, certificates and short-term training opportunities. The Computer Information Systems program's academic excellence is recognized nationally. Whatcom and WWU are offering a new pathway to a baccalaureate degree in Computer and Information Systems Security. Graduates who earn their two-year Associate in Applied Science transfer degree in Cybersecurity at WCC will be eligible to continue at Western for two years to earn the Computer and Information Systems Security baccalaureate degree. Enrollment begins fall 2013.