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“The Harford Community College administration and faculty are the most outstanding college personnel that I have personally interacted with as a student.”
After 25 years as a senior academic administrator, Robin Hexter decided it was time to reinvent herself and make a career change. “My lifelong career goal is to serve and help others and contribute to the greater good in the world,” Robin said. She also needed to prepare herself for a job that would allow her to support her two daughters. She chose cybersecurity, a career with which she could support her family and serve her country.
"With a major shortage of cybersecurity talent reaching 1.5 million by 2019, the demand for the technical skills to fulfill these positions greatly motivated me to consider a career in cybersecurity. My own personal experiences with cyber fraud (a fraudulent IRS tax return filed in my name) was a daunting experience. I believe protecting U.S. citizens from malevolent cybersecurity activities is my calling.”
Robin is currently working on an Associate of Applied Science degree in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity as well as the Cyber Defense Certificate program at Harford Community College. She is also continuing a Department of Defense (DOD) internship that was initiated at HCC more than a year ago, when the College arranged for a DOD representative to meet with students to discuss internship opportunities. Robin said that, although such a prestigious internship would fulfill a lifelong dream, she didn’t believe she would be considered because she was an older student. She applied anyway and was delighted when she was accepted into the program.
Robin spends four months gaining real-world, hands-on training In the internship, then returns to HCC full-time for classes. She will continue alternating internship and classroom studies until she earns a bachelor’s degree and completes 52 weeks in DOD cybersecurity training. Robin will complete her studies at HCC in May 2018 and then pursue a bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland; she expects to graduate in December 2019.
Before Robin considered a two-year college, she applied and was accepted into three cybersecurity master’s degree programs. Since she had no previous cybersecurity experience, she was strongly encouraged by a program graduate to seek work experience and/or industry certifications rather than to pursue a master’s degree. After researching various community colleges, she chose Harford because it offered the best cybersecurity program. In addition, Harford’s Cyber Defense Certificate allowed her to enroll in classes that would prepare her to take multiple industry-standard certifications (i.e. Security+, Networking+, Linux+ and CCENT). Robin said by making this decision instead of pursuing a master’s, she would save $60,000 in educational costs.
“I made the best academic choice of my career choosing Harford Community College. I have poured my heart and soul into my studies at HCC. I have maintained a 4.0 in both the AAS and Certificate programs. I made the President’s and Deans Lists. I qualify for the Regents Scholarship and plan to apply this coming March 2018. I was accepted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society at HCC,” she said.
Robin was selected as the keynote speaker for the grand opening of HCC’s cybersecurity labs last spring. “I received a standing ovation from individuals in the audience that included the County Executive, HCC president, HCC Board of Trustees, HCC dean, DOD and Aberdeen Proving Grounds department heads, and other guests. In my talk, I exuded passion for HCC and the love I have for its cybersecurity programs and the field. Minutes after the talk, I was approached by the president of Mid-Atlantic Women in Defense to consider a board position (vice president); I am now in this role. I was offered a job from a private tech company. In addition, I recruited a new student for the Cyber Defense Certificate program. All after a 10-minute talk on behalf of the HCC Cyber Defense Certificate program! There is nothing in the world more than my love for HCC and the Cybersecurity programs,” she said.
“The Harford Community College administration and faculty are the most outstanding college personnel that I have personally interacted with as a student. Dean Mayhorne’s academic leadership is exemplary as he gives his time to listen, to understand, and to support HCC cybersecurity students when problems arise.” She described the cybersecurity faculty as “amazing, accommodating, and flexible” and said, “Professors Ralf Fritze and Paul Nesbitt are two exceptional professors in the Information Assurance and Cybersecurity and Cyber Defense Certificate programs.” She also recognized the dedication of the staff who run the Cyber Defense Certificate program, Dawn Grissom and Christine Brown. “They are hardworking, serve the students in an exceptional capacity, and keep their best interests always at the forefront.” Robin added, “Hands down there is no question that a student will succeed in the Associate of Applied Sciences in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity and the Cyber Defense Certificate programs.”
Her advice to other students is to never be afraid to ask for help from a professor and/or College administrator. “In life, we all may need help sometimes. There may be times when the help we need is great, and we are too embarrassed to ask for the help. I encourage anyone who might think they cannot ask for that help to reach out to others who can help. Even if those you ask cannot help you, they are likely to guide you to someone who can.”
Robin also encourages others not to let factors, such as their age, stand in the way of their dreams. “You are never too old to be considered for an internship and/or education. If you do not apply, you will never be considered. Therefore, apply and see what happens. You may be surprised. I was very surprised.”
After she completes her studies and internship, Robin hopes to pursue a cybersecurity career with the Department of Defense.
Robin recently addressed state legislators and distinguished guests about her experiences at the College at the annual “Harford Night in Annapolis” event, in celebration of Harford’s 6oth anniversary.
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