- Alumni Series: How Michael Williams Became a Cybersecurity Pentester
- A Veteran Success Story with Antonio Grant
- Leveraging a Cybersecurity Bootcamp to Launch a Career in Tech
- A Veteran Success Story with Zooey Nguyen
- A Veteran Success Story with Corey Grant, Jr.
- A Veteran Success Story with Tony Preston
- A Veteran Success Story with Angelica Ambrose
- A Veteran Success Story with Don Snyder
- A Veteran Success Story with Anthony Hunter
- A Veteran Success Story with Blake Donahoo
A Veteran Success Story with Tony Preston
My name is Tony Preston and I am a native Floridian and an Air Force Veteran.
During my time in the Air Force, I was in telecommunications focused on network operations. That made me responsible for monitoring our audio and digital communications so that those networks maintained top efficiency.
After leaving the Air Force, I transitioned to a corporate career. I took a consulting role focused on insurance, risk management, and claims management.
Outside of my career, I am a dedicated family man.
My wife and I have been happily married for more than 35 years. We have one biological daughter who is currently a 24-year old college student, and about 4 years ago, we decided to do this risky but amazing thing—we adopted five siblings.
We saw this little family of five siblings that were one week away from getting kicked out of the foster care system and being separated forever into different households. Our hearts went out to them and we knew that we just had to step up and adopt these five children. We had faith that God would handle the rest.
Since then, we have been working with these young kids, making them part of our family, and letting them know that they're loved. We do so not just through physical affection, but also emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. We want to help them overcome all the things they had to face coming from an abusive background.
However, the work I did back then kept me on the road for about half the year. I quickly realized that I had to transition out of that job so I can better guide my children to a more fulfilling life. As luck would have it, my previous job gave me the opportunity to work with Cyber. That experience gave me the confidence to pursue Cyber as a new career path.
My biggest challenge coming into this career shift is that I’m not a young guy anymore.
I don’t look my age and I’ve got a young spirit, but I am getting up there in years. I come from COBOL and Fortran environments and it's a different world now. So, Cyber felt like this big challenge for me since it seemed like a young man’s journey. I often see 12-year-olds who can code and that made me feel like a dinosaur. It made me fear the aspect of coding that I possibly would have to face going into this field.
I was fortunate enough to be coached through that fear. Divergence made me realize that my age does not make me a dinosaur—it gave me the experience and potential that I bring to the table day after day.
I had a big mountain of finances standing in the way of my education.
I really needed to transition to a better career to provide for my family. But, funding my education to do so was definitely a big challenge. So, I started checking out the VA website to see if there were benefits I would be eligible for. It was an important step because it would determine what options I had.
I was able to communicate with people from VA and other programs. I realized that I was pretty much on my own in that process. Oftentimes, I found myself waiting and wondering what was happening with no one to help me.
Luckily, I discovered Divergence and your VA representatives made the whole process simpler. You took all the anxieties out of it because of the resources and guidance you gave me.
From the moment I engaged with you guys, the application process for VRRAP became a breeze. I pretty much left everything in your hands, and you guys ran that for me and made it happen. I was able to start on time.
Finding Divergence felt like getting an answered prayer.
When I discovered Divergence through the Veterans Administration, I was praying that you would lead me to the program that would best fit my strengths, which were my risk management background and entrepreneurial spirit.
I didn't want a program that would only give me a basic foundation. I wanted something that would immerse me right into the strategic and management side of cybersecurity. Divergence gave me access to strategic, concentrated modules that were focused on the big picture.
I was really excited about SOMI because it had everything I wanted—risk management with a focus on Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) as a big, strategic eagle’s eye view of Cyber.
And then, I also finished the CMMC course, which focuses on the assessment and consultation for DoD contractors. All those things fit in my wheelhouse and they empowered me to build off of the skills I already have.
Since joining your program, I have been given every opportunity to learn as much as possible. Divergence has been extremely helpful in building my confidence and developing my skills throughout this journey.
I’m able to apply the skills I learned from the Air Force in my studies.
I developed many skills during my time in the Air Force. I think the important ones, which I can apply in my career in Cyber, are the three A’s.
First is assessment, which enabled me to assess gaps and trends in networks. It’s a skill that transferred over seamlessly into cybersecurity and risk assessment.
Next is analysis, which is critical in the data-driven world we live in. Learning how to analyze data from my telecommunications background has been incredibly helpful for me. It allows me to identify risks and opportunities in our business operations and understand how information flows through the organization.
Lastly, an important skill that transferred over to Cyber is application. I've learned how to apply the data I analyzed and use it to create a solution for what needs to be done or get into the optimum level of operation.
Cybersecurity is about identifying, analyzing, and addressing threats that cause issues in a network. Defending against those threats requires the three A’s.
The Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program left a positive impact on my education and career.
VRRAP empowered me to enroll in any of their approved schools. The funding I got from VRRAP allowed me to pursue my education at Divergence. I enrolled in your Security Operations Management Immersive program without paying out of pocket.
Divergence gave me a holistic learning experience.
As a learner at Divergence, I felt like nothing was wasted from my career prior to going into Cyber. I had three modules at Divergence, which were CISSP, Azure AD, and CMMC. Each of those modules was a small class with an eclectic mix of individuals. We were all allowed to bring our unique experiences from our previous careers and incorporate them into our curriculum.
My instructors made every skill I developed in my previous job applicable to the cybersecurity world. They genuinely wanted to hear where we came from and encouraged us to contribute to the class. At the same time, they were committed to teaching the core components of their course and staying true to that.
I never felt like just a person sitting there looking at a loss with all this new information. My instructors made the whole experience feel like the real world—it was holistic in the sense that nothing was lost.
One of the biggest challenges in the program was familiarizing myself with all the tools. From the AD monitoring to the Sentinel Data Collector, there’s a wide array of tools to learn. But because the module was immersive and hands-on, I learned how to incorporate those tools into the work that I will be doing in cybersecurity.
Divergence enabled me to engage in real-life work in the industry while I was still studying.
Our instructors are actual consultants, business owners, and Microsoft employees. What I learned from them goes beyond the curriculum text. They provided great lessons based on the things they face in their careers each day.
That sentiment translates to me not only on paper but also on my knowledge base. I am confident that I can step in anywhere and run with the tools I got.
Divergence left a meaningful impact on my career.
Before Divergence, I went to a bootcamp where I felt overloaded with information. I came out of that experience feeling like I was dropped in the middle of the ocean with no boards or rafts to cling to.
On the other hand, Divergence made me feel like I was on a boat with a clear direction. If I wanted to go towards the field of CISSP, Divergence would take me there with no problem.
From the very beginning to the end of the program, Divergence was very hands-on while helping me. The overwhelming support I received prepared me for a career in tech. I learned how to set up my LinkedIn profile properly, prepare for a job interview, and study for my certification exams.
The staff was like a group of cheerleaders who encouraged me throughout my journey and celebrated every success I had. Divergence is not just a place where you study, get certificates, and leave. It’s a place where you build a family that supports you in your career.
Soon after completing the program, I received a job offer from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which I am still mulling over. After completing the CMMC program, I felt inspired to be an independent consultant or a business owner. So, that is a decision that I’m still praying and thinking over before finalizing that PwC offer.