After spending two years as a high school choir director, Alexander Baker was ready for a career change. He turned to WGU Indiana in hopes of furthering his education and shifting his career to computer science. He was recently awarded a full scholarship for an Undergraduate Certificate in Applied Cybersecurity after participating in SANS Technology Institute’s Cyber FastTrack competition. Alex is also pursuing his Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Computer Science from WGU Indiana’s College of Information Technology.
Meet Alex and learn more about how he is jumpstarting his career in computer science with the help of these online programs.
What led you to pursue a cybersecurity degree with WGU Indiana?
For the last two years, I worked as a high school choir director. While I loved working with the kids and making music, I quickly realized that the job itself wasn’t a great fit for me. I started considering other options and thought a job in technology might be better suited for me. After taking some free technology classes online, I knew I wanted to pursue more formal studies in tech. In researching degree programs, I kept hearing about WGU. I heard people say that the programs were affordable, accessible, and well-regarded by employers. I eventually decided to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in computer science as it would provide a wide survey of the technology field and offered more a foundational knowledge than some other specialized graduate degrees.
How is being awarded the Cybersecurity Scholarship pushing you forward in your pursuit?
I’m always looking for opportunities to grow and learn. I initially decided to participate in the Cyber FastTrack program with no intention of trying to win the scholarship. It just seemed like an opportunity to get some hands-on experience in a field I was interested in. When I found out that I had won a full scholarship for their certificate program, I was both shocked and elated. I’m very much looking forward to gaining a deeper understanding about the field of cybersecurity and I’m excited to see how the experience will shape my career path and interests.
What are your goals after graduating from WGU Indiana?
In hindsight, I can’t believe I never considered a career in tech until I turned 25. My love of learning and growth is one of the main reasons I initially pursued a career in education. My eventual goal would be to work in improving and developing existing or new technologies. At this point in my career, I’m trying to cultivate foundational knowledge in the field, acquire an understanding of what current technologies are predominant, and understand what trends and new fields might be on the horizon. I’m hopeful that later in my career, I’ll be in a place where I can make meaningful and significant contributions to the field that have the potential to improve our quality of life or help make what we previously thought impossible closer to reality.
How is WGU Indiana helping you reach your goals?
WGU enables me to pursue learning at my own pace. Starting a degree program at WGU demonstrated my commitment to moving into this field in a concrete way, especially to employers when I started applying for jobs. WGU provides me with the opportunity to fit my degree in with all the other things I’m trying to balance in my life: family, friends, work, and health. I absolutely love how flexible and affordable the program is, and I don’t think my transition to a new career would have been as seamless without it.
What challenges have you faced during your time pursuing a higher ed degree?
Goal setting has been extremely important. Given that WGU is largely self-directed learning, there is a temptation to procrastinate on course work. When life happens, it’s sometimes difficult to find time for my studies. I think it’s important to make concrete plans, rather than just a general plan to “work” on your coursework.
How has WGU Indiana’s non-traditional, competency-based model served you?
Why wouldn’t you recommend this path to others? I knew that I wanted to pursue another degree program, but didn’t want to quit working. WGU makes it possible for me to do both. I can pursue my studies on my own time, and I’m learning a lot from the program.
Tell us about a mentor in your life. What role do they play in supporting your higher ed and career pathway?
My aunt has been a great mentor for me in my career journey. I’ve always been a little shy and introverted, and she encourages me to put myself out there and take risks. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her help and encouragement.
What advice do you have for others with similar stories looking to further their education and career?
Realize that you have the potential to grow and work toward what you want to accomplish. Nothing is fixed, and if you want something bad enough, you’ll have to work for it. Make a commitment to take a little (or big) step each day towards accomplishing your goals.
WGU Indiana also offers a Cybersecurity Scholarship to students pursuing a degree or specialization in this area.