Fostering professional development through certifications
Student of the Week: Derek Casas
“Don't be afraid to try different departments or different certificates here because it gives you a chance to see if it is a fit for you.”
Driven by his desire to strengthen his professional development, Derek Casas has earned four certifications offered by the South Texas College Cybersecurity program.
Casas, of Edinburg, earned his bachelor’s degree in Computer and Information Technologies from STC in 2018. He is now focused on earning industry certifications while pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
Since the professional world and technologies are constantly evolving, students may wish to seek learning opportunities that will continue to develop and hone their skills. Industry certifications are available in-house through the Cybersecurity program thanks to academic partnerships STC has obtained with some of the industry’s world leaders.
Casas explained that the industry certifications he has obtained, including two offered by Pearson and two by the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council), has given him additional skills in computer security fundamentals and networking security, as well as knowing how to watch out for hacking and how to prevent intrusions.
Casas compares his interest in completing industry certifications to how software engineering or graphic design students build a portfolio.
“If you're doing art or any kind of software engineering, employers want a portfolio. They want to see what you've done - not just your degree,” Casas said. “So, then, for any IT (Information Technology) or technical positions, employers want to see certifications. Having these certifications just kind of give you the credentials…proof, that you know what you're talking about.”
Casas encourages curious students to explore the many options the department has to offer when it comes to certification exams. Especially since, for him as a graduate, it offers a chance to refresh and refine his previous education.
“I would recommend it to people that have already finished an IT degree… definitely if people want to branch out or specialize. A cybersecurity certificate is just good to have,” Casas said. “Don't be afraid to try different departments or different certificates here. Because it gives you a chance to see if it is a fit for you.”
The 34-year-old said his interest in technology has been with him since childhood, but Casas never expected it to become a career choice. Until something clicked for him during his first networking class at STC.
“And then that was it,” Casas said. “I was like, I'm good. I got this.”
Casas said he particularly enjoys the flexibility of his current online courses. Especially since he also works at STC as an open lab technician.
“It just makes everything so much easier,” Casas said. “My professors are always available to me. And, I'm also always here working on campus, so I know where they are.”
But it's the challenges that keep Casas interested in digging deeper and dedicating time and energy into his field. He is currently pursuing a fifth industry certification, and intends to keep an eye out for more – knowing it will only brighten his future career.
“I'm actually applying it, actually using it, testing it and playing with it,” Casas said about his education. “Overall, cybersecurity is probably one of the most complicated fields you could go into because it's not the type of field where you learn one thing. It's a type of field where you have to know everything and you apply everything in small pieces, but you put it together into a defense. So, test the waters, and don't be afraid to try.”