Stemming from his childhood interest in computers, Henri chose to pursue a career in cybersecurity to challenge himself and fuel his professional growth. Through hard work and continuous development he made the successful transition from Target employee to helpdesk specialist to tier II SOC analyst at one of the world’s leading security solutions integrators.
Please tell us about your background.
I'm currently a level 2 SOC Analyst at Optiv, a security solutions integrator. It’s still crazy to me that I get to work from home every day and do cybersecurity.
I’m originally from Shreveport, Louisiana and grew up playing the drums at church, football, and video games. From an early age, I loved anything involving technology and computers. I got my first hands-on experience with computers in the 5th grade, when my grandmother got one. I remember being excited because at the time when not many people I knew had one. I toyed around her computer a lot and then the next year my family got one.
When I got to college at Louisiana Tech, I briefly explored architecture thinking I might enjoy designing and building things. But very quickly learned there was a lot of ground to make up compared to others in my class. So I shifted my focus back to technology and earned my degree in computer information systems. The combination of tech job salaries, realizing the demand for talent, and having friends who were pursuing the same degree further solidified my decision to pursue this path.
The summer before I graduated college I met someone from my church who worked with the government. In discussing my interests in the tech space, he suggested I look into earning CompTIA Security+ certification as certifications were critical to landing government jobs. Once I learned about the Security+, I found a study guide and some online practice tests and went to work preparing. I spent a month or two studying and when I was consistently scoring high across practice tests I felt confident I was ready to pass the certification exam. My exposure to the Security+ and the opportunities a certification like that could unlock helped to drive my interest in cybersecurity.
But back then there weren’t the same types of resources there are now for those looking to break into cybersecurity. Also, being in Shreveport, there weren’t many cybersecurity jobs. So I worked at Target for a few months, making $7 an hour, while plotting my next step. I ended up getting my start as a helpdesk specialist, working with a company called APEX. We had a contract with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and I helped to support more than 80,000 end users across airports from screeners to federal air marshals. Working as a helpdesk specialist provided me a solid foundation. I learned the intricacies of different roles, the role technology plays in those roles, people skills, and how to ask better questions. Being able to ask the right questions is an underrated skill in this line of work.
What made you decide to pursue a career in cybersecurity?
Working in the helpdesk got old quick. Unless you're a tier III specialist dealing with complicated issues, every day looks the same. That’s also what drew me to cybersecurity, the fact that it’s ever changing. There’s always something new─a threat, vulnerability, technique, or tool─to learn. I’m not someone who likes going through the motions, I want to be challenged.
I knew I wanted to work in cybersecurity, I just had to figure out how to get there. I had already attained my Security+ credential, so even while working at the helpdesk I was applying and interviewing for roles. About a year into my search, I interviewed with an educational hospital in the area and made it deep into the process but wasn’t selected because I didn’t have the experience. So I just kept researching jobs, networking, and expanding my skill set.
Was there a particular goal you were trying to achieve by starting in cybersecurity?
There wasn’t a specific role that I was targeting, I really just wanted to be challenged. I appreciated that the ever-changing nature of cybersecurity would keep me on my toes.
When I landed my first SOC analyst role, it felt like the perfect fit for me. People have this misconception that cybersecurity is like being in the Wild Wild West, where everybody has to go out shooting, but there’s a lot of moving parts in running a SOC.
Could you share some examples of skills you've learned on Cybrary?
I’ve grown my knowledge and skills in incident response. Cybrary’s virtual labs afforded me the opportunity to learn and build my confidence with tools like Splunk. I was also able to earn my AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification after completing Nicolas Moy’s course.
What role has Cybrary played in your cybersecurity career journey?
I appreciate that whenever I encounter something new that I don’t know about, whether it’s something I come across at work or see online, I am typically able to find a course or a related virtual lab on Cybrary. Which allows me to learn and figure out how to solve a problem or navigate a situation.
Cybrary has enabled me to develop new skills and gain experience with tools that I’ve needed to utilize in order to support my clients. Cybrary has also been instrumental in helping me demonstrate my skills to hiring managers, whether it was earning certifications or certificates of completion.
What advice would you give someone new to cybersecurity? Where should they start?
First and foremost, do your research. Figure out where you want to go, then define the specific skills you need to get there. One approach I learned was to look at 5 to 10 job descriptions for your desired role and tally the skills that appear the most often. This offers insight into where you’ll need to focus to enhance your resume.
There are tons of resources available, from boot camps to online solutions like Cybrary, that can help you develop the skills and gain the experience you need. But you have to determine what works best for you. I often recommend Cybrary because if you don’t have the necessary experience, you can take courses and show employers your certificates of completion to demonstrate that you’re trying to learn. Cybrary's virtual labs enable you to get hands-on experience and build your confidence with tools you’ll need to be able to leverage on-the-job.
Finally, network. Use LinkedIn and follow anyone with the type of job you’re interested in. I know posts can catch the attention of recruiters and hiring managers, but you can also reach out directly to recruiters and express your desire to work in the field. You can use that connection to pick their brains and assess your resume and experience.
Where do you want to go in cybersecurity? What do you want to become?
I want to take on a manager or director-level position that will enable me to stand up Security Operations Centers (SOCs), from hiring staff to developing processes to evaluating tools. I’d like to have on my resume and LinkedIn, that I was able to stand up a SOC for ABC company. I want that to be my area of expertise, so right now I’m working to gain the right credentials and experience to demonstrate I’m capable of doing it.
I’d also like to start my own company either offering SOC as a service or providing security consulting services to smaller organizations, law firms, or doctor’s offices. I feel like small organizations often think that due to their size they’re less likely to be attacked. But that’s not true at all, organizations of all sizes get attacked.
What are your near-term goals? How will you go about achieving them?
Professionally, I want to continue to diversify my skill set with Cybrary and enhance my marketability. I’m preparing for my eLearnSecurity Certified Incident Responder (eCIR) certification exam, but also plan to pursue a Splunk certification. Over the course of my career, certifications have really helped me build credibility with clients.
Personally, I want to educate and empower those interested in building a career in cybersecurity. In fact, I’ve started both a website www.techualconsulting.com and a YouTube channel (Techno Chatter) focused on helping others achieve their cybersecurity career goals based on my experiences.
"Cybrary enabled me to develop new skills and experience I needed to better support my clients".