Serendipity isn’t a word that usually comes up in the computing world. It’s a place of fact, a realm of science, and not so much a place of coincidence.
But in the life of recent Georgia Tech graduate Rahim Millious, good luck and perfect timing are undeniable. First, Millious is one of the fortunate few to find a professional passion – cybersecurity – early in his career. “I love being challenged, and the field of cybersecurity is an infinite pool of challenges,” he says. “I find cybersecurity captivating because it presents a huge challenge - one that can never fully be solved and is becoming more complex every day.”
Then came the fact that his chosen field is experiencing a global workforce shortage. And while Covid-19 is negatively impacting many industries, cybersecurity appears to be emerging unscathed.
Millious’s pull towards data security first emerged when working as a software developer at a technology firm. He soon noticed that there was a missing link in the process.
I found that cybersecurity was getting left out of the planning and scheduling discussions,” he says. “It’s not something that is often baked in from the start. Vulnerabilities come out, and things are fixed on a case-by-case basis. As opposed to ‘Let’s bake this in from the start, let’s plan, and let’s schedule time for the developers to create secure applications.
He recognized that “it’s largely due to the fact that there aren’t those experts working on the development team” and says it’s an absence that needs to be addressed. “More than ever, individuals share a massive amount of data, and without the advances in cybersecurity to go along with the advances in technology, there will be an ever-growing gap, which puts everyone at risk.”
Wanting to bring more knowledge to his team and role, Millious enrolled in the Georgia Tech's Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS) program, intent on taking all the available cybersecurity courses. “I took all security courses — until I ran out!” he recalls, laughing. “I was able to learn from top minds in the field and not only gained knowledge, but hands-on experience through a variety of intensive projects. Some people picture an online program and they would lose that one-on-one support from professors and that’s not at all the case here.”
Millious brought his new skills to his role as a developer, but was eager to transition fully into the security field. He was mid-way through the OMSCS program when he applied for a position as a Security Assurance Analyst at ATB Financial – and got the job. He credits his Georgia Tech classes as key to successfully making the move. “They undoubtedly contributed to my being hired. They really gave me that edge.”
Then, in the spring of 2019, Georgia Tech launched the first-of-its-kind online master's program in cybersecurity. Once again, the timing for Millious was spot-on. “As soon as I heard about the online master's in Cybersecurity, I applied,” he says. “It meant losing credit for a couple of courses that didn’t transfer, but I had no hesitation. I was able to continue my education in cybersecurity and take part in the practicum. As expected, it and the lab were two of my favorite things in the program. They gave me truly in-depth experience with reverse engineering and binary exploitation that you’d be hard-pressed to get anywhere else.”
With a new job and a challenging master's program, Millious had his work cut out for him. Since he was living and working in Edmonton, Canada, being able to take classes at home along with the accessibility and support of professors is what made it possible. This summer, he was the very first graduate to receive the Georgia Tech Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity degree.
“My time at Georgia Tech has helped me form a deep and robust understanding of cybersecurity, one that transcends any particular technology. I apply what I have learned every day. Though tools and technologies change constantly, I am able to analyze and assess the security of complex systems and provide guidance regarding design and implementation. I believe the program has given me an arsenal of skills which allow me to tackle novel cybersecurity problems, and this will help me succeed in the industry.” Clearly, he is right. One month before graduating, he received a promotion and is now a Senior Security Assurance Analyst.
“Cybersecurity is a massive field,” Millious continues. “Anyone who claims to know everything is lying. Securing infrastructure, systems and applications is a continuously evolving and moving target. For this reason, I will never stop learning.”
Written by Laurel-Ann Dooley