Skip to content

Partner Spotlight

Ready for Liftoff: How a Cybersecurity Boot Camp Prepared Kyle Baxter for a Future at NASA

Written by Stephen Eichinger on Aug 18, 2020

Related content: Program Services, Outcomes, Digital Education

Despite having a bachelor’s degree in computer science and several years of professional IT experience, Kyle Baxter found himself struggling to break into the cybersecurity industry.

Intent on gaining a competitive edge, he began exploring different educational options—and happily stumbled upon The Cybersecurity Boot Camp at UCR Extension powered by Trilogy Education, a 2U, Inc. brand. An intensive 24-week program, the boot camp offered a chance for students to gain marketable skills without putting their lives on pause.

More than anything, Kyle wanted a program that prioritized real-world learning—and this boot camp perfectly fit the bill. “Instead of reading about cybersecurity or watching someone else hack a machine, I’d be getting hands-on experience,” he said.

Hoping to finally launch the career of his dreams, Kyle eagerly enrolled.

An education like no other

Given his academic background, Kyle was no stranger to technology classes. Yet, the boot camp was unlike anything he’d experienced before.

“In college, computer science was very structured, theoretical, and traditional,” he explained. “The boot camp was way more creative. We had tons of freedom—and lots of different communication channels. If I wanted answers as an undergraduate, I’d have to physically go to office hours. In the boot camp, I could just message my instructor over Slack. That level of immediate support was a huge differentiator.”

A launch pad for professional growth

Instructors weren’t the only source of support. Outside the classroom, Kyle received personalized coaching from Trilogy’s Career Services team—which he now considers a key factor in his successful job search.

Before the boot camp, Kyle hadn’t known what tech recruiters were looking for in talent. “Through my own research, I’d only seen copied-and-pasted job descriptions,” he said. “I needed to dig deeper and get answers.”

The Trilogy team delivered. During regularly scheduled one-on-ones with his career coach Marilyn Day, Kyle discovered what recruiters actually want to see on a resume—and what they don’t. From there, he learned how to tailor applications to different roles, identify job posts that suited his passions—and remain steadfast in the pursuit of his professional goals.

From classroom to NASA

As Kyle started landing job interviews, the Career Services team was also there to provide crucial preparation and pointers.

Is it a technical or behavioral interview? How many people will be in the room? What kind of questions might they ask? By setting the scene, Kyle’s coach guided him through the recruiting process for each specific position.

This mentoring soon paid off. While interviewing for a data controller role at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, Kyle heeded his coach’s advice to cite tangible project experience whenever possible. “I started off by speaking about a secure Python chat engine I’d created in the boot camp,” he said.

The hiring team’s interest was immediately piqued—and later that same day, Kyle received a job offer.

Reaching new heights

At NASA, Kyle is in charge of handling mission-critical data during rocket launches.

“There isn’t a word to describe how excited I am about this role,” he said. “My main goal has always been to work with a government agency. Cybersecurity was barely scratching the surface when I was getting my bachelor’s degree, but I was fascinated by the idea of data protection even then. I wanted to defend our country without a gun in my hand.”

Great roles come with great responsibilities—and this one is no exception. While interviewing Kyle, NASA’s hiring team emphasized the demands of being a data controller. They said, “We could have a Saturday or Sunday mission, and we’d need you to be there.”

A lifelong science enthusiast, Kyle was unfazed. As he told the recruiter: “Give me a pot of coffee, and let’s do this.”

Learn more about us.

At 2U, we’re on a mission—to eliminate the back row in higher education and help universities thrive in the digital age. To learn more about who we are and what we do, follow the links below.