How a Deakin internship led to a career in cyber security

When you’re considering what to study at university, it’s important to think about where each course might lead you.

How sought-after are graduates in the field you’re interested in? Is there likely to be future growth? What kind of partnerships does the uni have with industry – and will they help you find an internship?

Often it helps to hear from those who’ve walked the same path before you, to find out how they got a foot in the door.

Meet Max, a cyber security graduate

Max Power studied cyber security at Deakin University, finishing up at the end of 2019.

Prior to that, the now 35-year-old had been working in a pathology lab for seven years, but every day had started to feel the same.

‘I needed a career change,’ he says. ‘I wasn’t very happy there and there wasn’t a lot of room to grow and so I decided to go back to uni.’

Max says he’s always ‘had a passion for everything computers’ so he began investigating various IT degrees.

‘I saw that Deakin was offering the IT security one, and from that moment I knew yep, that’s what I want to do,’ he says.

Industry partnerships

At Deakin, students are prepared for the workplace with direct industry connections through their teachers and their placement opportunities. Students in any IT course at Deakin undertake a minimum of 100 hours of professional work experience and can access employment placements through our close industry partnerships.

Once Max was accepted into the course, he successfully applied for a scholarship offered by one of Deakin’s industry partners, managed security solutions company SecureWorx.

During his second year of uni, the Melbourne business offered him a three-month internship placement, which began early in his third year.

By that stage I had already lined up an internship with another company (Deloitte), so I ended up doing that one and then I rolled straight into the SecureWorx internship and I haven’t left,’ he says.

Putting his degree straight to work

SecureWorx helps safeguard the data and systems of individuals, government and businesses by keeping out hackers and other threats.

Max said his initial three-month internship taught him a lot.

‘With SecureWorx being a small company, I was working directly under the chief information security officer and I was working closely with the chief technology officer,’ he says.

‘I did a little bit of everything but the thing I found I enjoyed the most was the security operations centre tasks, like monitoring the network.’

During the internship Max was able to use some of the fundamentals he’d already learned in his degree, including understanding business processes and how an IT company works, in a real-life environment.

The University offers a hands-on experience during the course, but according to Max ‘the internship is a unique opportunity’ where he could put his skills into practice. Likewise he was able to draw on the knowledge he gained at Deloitte and SecureWorx in later uni assignments.

What’s an average day like in cyber security?

After being offered a full-time job at SecureWorx, Max switched the rest of his degree to part-time.

As the business’ Security Operations Centre Manager, Max says he attends plenty of meetings. He oversees a number of analysts who monitor customer environments – from websites to IT infrastructure and network equipment – for any danger, and is also the technical lead.

Every day is a little bit different.

Much like the industry is changing, the people we’re trying to stop are constantly evolving, so it’s sort of a cat and mouse game,’ Max says.

‘It’s almost like a puzzle sometimes – you’re finding these little clues and tracing it back.’

His advice to other students

Max says Deakin students are often offered a job at the end of their internships, so it’s important to put in some effort when organising a placement. While the job isn’t guaranteed, the students can take their experience to further their careers elsewhere.

‘There’s so much demand at the moment for skilled staff in cyber security, so all the big companies are out there, eager to get their hands on some students,’ he says.

‘You go spend four weeks or however long with the company, and that’s time and money they’ve put into you. They’re going to want you to stick around so it’s in your benefit to make the effort to go out and get a good placement.’

Max says being a naturally inquisitive person will stand you in good stead, because the cyber security industry is changing all the time.

‘That’s one of the biggest things. You can have all the processes and procedures in the world, but it’s the kind of job that you need to be able to think on the fly and adjust accordingly.’

The right move

For Max, the decision to switch careers has been well worth it.

I like the challenge of it all, I like the opportunities and just learning new things every day,’ he says. ‘Here it’s much more interesting [than his old job] and it’s something I have a passion for, so it makes it a lot easier to come to work every day.’

Want be at the forefront of cyber security? Study at Deakin and learn to protect data and systems.