tldr; The pathway I took to get into cybersecurity. I started in high school and got really involved. Engage, Google, break things.
Ever since I was young, I’ve loved computers and technology. What initially hooked me onto technology was old generation gaming devices like the SNES, Nintendo 64, and GameBoy. Throughout my childhood, I played countless hours of assorted video games and developed a passion for games that united people across great distances and created a sense of community. Throughout middle school, I thought that I wanted to become a game developer to partake in that connecting of people.
When I entered high school, that dream quickly was replaced. I was introduced to a whole new world of technology - cybersecurity. Prior, I had no clue about just how interconnected all the devices around me were. I started as a complete cyber newbie at a simple cyber summer camp, but as the years passed by, I became increasingly more passionate and involved in cybersecurity. I competed in CyberPatriot, the largest youth cyberdefense competition, for 4 years as Linux system specialist. Other competitions I’ve competeted include California Cybersecurity Innovation Challenge (CCIC), California Mayor’s Cyber Cup, and countless CTFs. I learned how to harden a number of services like SSH, FTP, LAMP stack websites and more. By the end of high school, I had taught hundreds of people about cybersecurity, served as my school’s CyberPatriot Linux co-lead, and placed 6th and 4th at the CyberPatriot national finals. You can read more about my time in CyberPatriot on my LinkedIn.
In order to pursue my cybersecurity passions, I chose to attend California Polytechnic University, Pomona. I joined the SWIFT (Students With an Interest in the Future of Technology), CPTC (Collegiete Penetration Testing Competition), and the CCDC (Collegiete Cyber Defense Competition) team to further my education in cybersecurity. I still enjoy video games (eSports, too), and still am passionate about conneceting people. Now, my goal is to help people stay safe and connected as modern technology evolves.
For those who are looking for a way into cybersecurity but have no clue where to start, I was there, too. By far, the best piece advice I can give is to just start. That’s why my motto is “engage, Google, break things.” You shouldn’t expect to learn everything before you start looking for opportunities. A lot of my journey was being proactive and learning on the go as I tried to meet expectations. Also, definitely take any opportunity to teach topics you feel confident in. Teaching also reinforces your own knowledge. Obviously, breaking things shouldn’t be intentional, and should be avoided. But once you get as accustomed to failing and then pulling yourself back together as I have, you realize breaking things is often just part of the learning process.
baseq or baseq?
People who see my online alias, baseq, almost always ask the same question: is it ‘basic’ or ‘base Q’? Well, the creation of my username dates back to one of my CyberPatriot national finals trips in Baltimore, Maryland. During my team’s preparation, I would often say “remember the basic things,” or “let’s keep it basic” referring to low hanging fruit to secure our competition environment. As the trip continued, I began using “basic” to reference being incredibly mainstrain (look up a basic person) and started purposefully spelling the word ‘basic’ in more convuluted ways as a joke. Eventually, I came across the spelling I use today ‘baseq’ because it’s an ambigram (in certain fonts). Now, to actually answer the question on how to pronounce ‘baseq’: it’s entirely silent ;)