Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 in the United States recognizing the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.

Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS) proudly supports Hispanic Heritage Month by encouraging the advancement of women, including Hispanic, Latina, and Latinx women, and women of color, in cybersecurity careers as illustrated by the Veterans’ Apprenticeship Program.

The program aligns well with the overall WiCyS mission to recruit, retain, and advance women in cybersecurity by supporting the advancement of female veteran members within the WiCyS community as they transition from military to cybersecurity careers.  

We are happy to announce the launch of the inaugural program by the first cohort of female US military veterans ready to join the cybersecurity field through apprentices available!

Below, we highlight two veteran women who shared their stories about their military service and how the WiCyS Veterans’ Apprenticeship Program is making a difference in their lives and contributes to the success of the Hispanic and Latinx communities.

Laura Villegas Sturgeon joined the United States Army for a change in direction, after obtaining her Associate Degree in Psychology, and to build her confidence. She served in active duty for six years in South Korea and the US and one year in the Army Reserves in the US.

In her transition from military service to civilian life, Laura continued her education, obtaining her BS in Cybersecurity Policy and Management in 2021. During her final year of college at the University of Maryland Global Campus, she attended a webinar that introduced the Smoothstack/WiCyS program for veterans, and she began the program in the summer of 2021.

After completing the program, Laura began working for Bloomberg (remotely for now) as a cybersecurity analyst apprentice in their CSOC Triage Team!

Key takeaways are:

  • Laura is honored to be highlighted during Hispanic Heritage Month because it is important to have more Hispanic representation in cybersecurity.
  • Laura increased her confidence through her service and her studies, now benefitting from the WiCyS Veterans’ Apprenticeship Program and working in the cybersecurity field.
  • Smoothstack encourages women, including minority women, to join the cybersecurity field.
  • The camaraderie among members of the cohort has been a bonus.
  • While Laurawas unable to attend the WiCyS Annual Conference in September 2021, she heard great things from her manager and her Smoothstack peer at Bloomberg and looks forward to attending next year. 

Merle Rodriguez joined the US Navy to move on from New York and try something new. For 26 years, she served as an Information Systems Technician in Italy and the US, retiring from the service in April 2021.

Merle’s game plan to transition from the military began in 2019 when she decided to pursue a cybersecurity career, which aligned with her BS in IT Management, and IT knowledge and experience. Her focus has been on Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) because she likes the idea of helping companies effectively manage IT and security risks and meet compliance requirements.

In the summer of 2021, the WiCyS Veterans’ Apprenticeship Program and Smoothstack offered Merle an opportunity to build knowledge and learn new technology. Merle tapped into her overall years of experience and IT background to complete the program in September 2021. Since then, she has continued with further study, while she explores her career opportunities in cybersecurity.

 Key takeaways are:

  • The program gave her the confidence to continue the journey and be more

outspoken for minority women in cybersecurity

  • Hispanics need to overcome barriers (e.g., language, finances, understanding of cybersecurity careers). IT knowledge and a mentor can help you figure out what position in the cybersecurity industry interests you.
  • Merle’s advice to other veterans looking for a career in cybersecurity is to build a foundation in IT to understand cybersecurity.

 WiCyS is achieving a positive impact for veterans and the cybersecurity workforce through this innovative and timely program. To learn more about WiCyS Veterans’ Apprenticeship Program, CLICK HERE.

Contributor: Dawn Kristy, JD, Founder & CEO of The Cyber Dawn, a cybersecurity awareness training and communications consultancy.