From a teaching career to active duty in the U.S. Navy to working at Boeing, Inez Whitley is a self-proclaimed life-long learner. She enrolled in USD’s Master of Science in Cyber Security Engineering in 2020 and secured her dream job at Boeing before graduating.
“I Had No Interest at All in Computers Growing Up”
As a kid, Inez wasn’t overly interested in technology. She remembers “this big box computer and it was dial up and just thinking, oh my gosh. I had no interest in it at all.” Growing up, Inez’s mom was a foster parent, so there were a lot of foster kids in the home. Some of them had emotional difficulties or physical disabilities, which shaped Inez’s interest in working with children.
After briefly considering a medical career, her interests led her to education. She received her undergraduate degree in 2017 in childhood development, and pursued a teaching credential. It was around this time that Inez experienced some life changes and decided to join the Navy.
Inez joined the U.S. Navy in August of 2009 as an Information Systems Admin. She was encouraged by her older brother, who at the time was retiring from the U.S. Army as an IT professional. In January 2018, Inez joined the Navy Reserves as an Information System Technician. After building her tech skills, Inez knew she wanted to pursue an advanced degree in cyber security engineering.
Enter the University of San Diego
Inez’s training and experience in the Navy working with IT systems made her realize she wanted to continue to grow professionally and personally. Her goal was to get back into the workforce, and she knew that an advanced degree would put her ahead of the competition. Having grown up in the area, Inez was familiar with the University of San Diego, its degree programs and the beautiful campus. Inez applied and was accepted into the program in 2020. Her Veterans Affairs advisor worked closely with USD’s Military and Veterans Program to provide Inez with the resources and support that she needed.
Beyond the Classroom
With support from her VA advisor, USD staff and professors and her peers, Inez successfully navigated the program, growing both professionally and personally. She enjoyed the entire experience, especially getting into the weeds of penetration testing and the challenge of coding. She took part in networking hours set up by professor Nicholas Behar in which students could meet professionals in the industry. Inez keeps in touch with both her professors and peers, who she considers “extended family.”
Never Stop Learning
Today, Inez is working her dream job in government and compliance policies at Boeing, using the skills she learned at USD everyday. She’s still learning as much as she can from her coworkers who have been at Boeing for 20+ years. She’s also looking ahead and considering her Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification.
“The Opportunities Are There”
Inez highly recommends the program to anyone looking for a career change or looking to break into the cybersecurity industry. Two important pieces of advice: have a reliable computer at or above the program requirements and take advantage of the networking opportunities. Students have different levels of experience, so the learning opportunities extend beyond the classroom. Inez’s advice? “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. […] You’ll find that support, not only with the staff and professors, but even with your peers.”