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As a combat infantryman for the United States Army, Joe Little had clearly defined roles, expectations, and responsibilities. Upon his return to civilian life in 2016, he found himself without the structure he had become accustomed to and was looking to find his next path. After careful consideration, he found it through Harford. Earning his associate degree in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity helped Joe forge the way to what he's confident will be a meaningful and stimulating career.
Born in Baltimore, Joe moved with his family to Harford County when he was in the sixth grade. After graduating from Fallston High School, he got a job with Bethlehem Steel. When the plant shut down, Joe found himself unemployed at 30 and unsure as to what his future held. The Army was his next step and he went on to serve six years, including a deployment to Afghanistan.
Joe got married midway through his time in the military; when his tour was over, he returned to Maryland with his wife and newborn son and a new question: now what? A short stint in retail left him restless and eager to do something more with his life. An introduction to the field of cybersecurity through an Army friend appealed to him as a solid, well-paying career path. With that in mind, Joe registered as a full-time student at Harford, majoring in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity. A bonus: the GI Bill covered all of his expenses, including tuition and books.
With the help and support of his wife, the VA Office at the College, and his instructors, Joe's confidence and determination grew. His military background prepared him well for the challenges he encountered – including balancing time to be the dad of a baby, managing his coursework, and maintaining solid grades. Making the most of his college experience was top priority for Joe -- so much so that attaining President's List status every semester was a goal that he set and achieved consistently.
Still, there were times Joe experienced difficulties with the adjustment to civilian life. "I give a lot of credit to my English instructor Ann Marie McGlumphy for giving me the freedom to put my thoughts on paper in her class. It was a good therapy session to express the true feelings and struggles I was experiencing and having somebody to give me feedback."
His Networking class was definitely more challenging than he had anticipated. Says Joe, "You think you know about networking until you start to learn about networking and then you realize just how much you don’t know about networking!" His instructor, Albert Richardson, a U.S. Navy veteran, was invaluable for support and any extra help that Joe or any of his classmates needed.
Working with and getting insight from the instructors who are IT professionals in the workplace helped Joe figure out what to expect in the cybersecurity world. He’s currently studying for the Network+ and Security+ exams to increase his marketability as well as earning power in the job market. Joe is currently in talks with a contractor with NSA and awaiting his top-secret clearance. If all goes well, his future career potential has no limits.
Where does Joe see himself in five years? He hopes to be successful in the IT field, perhaps working in a government job using the skills he learned here at Harford. His final words of wisdom: "Just like with anything in life, you only get out of it what you put into it. You put in more effort – whether it be school work or exercise, for example – you get more out of it. The more work you put in, the more successful you'll be."
For information regarding the use of VA benefits for veterans or tuition assistance for active duty military, please contact Janice Cassady or Tammy Dennis in the College's VA office at 443-412-2100 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about support for military and veterans at Harford Community College, visit www.harford.edu/veterans.
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Bel Air, MD 21015-1627
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