Alumni Profile: Alumna pursues passion for cybersecurity after move to US
Monday, June 3, 2019
Written by: Emily Hollingshead
Maria Suarez, while working for the College, helped pose for the Computing and Telecom Services department photos.
Maria Suarez doesn’t have a lot of free time on her hands. Between working a full-time job and finishing her master’s in cybersecurity at the University of South Florida, her spare time is usually devoted to studying or family.
Suarez earned her bachelor’s degree from Seminole State College of Florida after immigrating to the U.S. from Cuba in 2013. When researching colleges, Seminole State’s affordability and conveniently located campuses appealed to her. Even better was that she could transition some of the technical credits she earned in college in Cuba into the Information Systems Technology program at Seminole State.
Starting in 2014, Suarez worked toward her bachelor’s degree and pursued the Cyber Security Specialization in the program. At the time, she was working at the College as part of the Federal Work-Study program and discovered her interest in identifying and isolating digital threats. Her professors encouraged her to pursue the track, since cybersecurity is a fast-growing field where she would have more opportunities.
At Seminole State, Suarez worked closely with many of the faculty and staff and credits a large group of people for where she is now. “Adam Stark was my teacher and also my colleague,” Suarez said. “He inspired me to be a hard worker and to go above and beyond what I’m asked to do. He is also one of the greatest resources when it comes to soft skills.”
Those soft skills are needed for interacting with people. The skills typically include aspects of communication, diplomacy and empathy. “In the IT field people never come to us saying, ‘the network is working great!’ Instead people usually come when their computer is down, when something is not working well, or when they are frustrated,” Suarez said. She believes that soft skills such as patience, listening to others and following up with people have really benefitted her career and are necessary qualities for growing in a company.
Even though I am graduating with a master’s from USF, I feel as though Seminole State will always be my alma mater.Maria Suarez
Now, as the information technology administrator of the growing engineering-automation company CLX Engineering, Suarez juggles various responsibilities. She is the point person for the daily IT operations, as well as larger projects like building a network for their new headquarters and assisting with automation jobs such as baggage handling systems in airports.
“I do recognize that, academically, my degrees at Seminole State and continuing my education have put me in this position. When employers are looking for prospective employees, one of the things they consider is academic growth,” Suarez said. "My current manager valued that I was continuing my education with a cybersecurity degree.”
For women looking to join Suarez in the IT industry, she says to not let the male-dominated industry intimidate them. “The profession requires you to be a detail-oriented person, to be organized and to manage a high level of stress. These are qualities that women often possess,” Suarez says. “If we work hard, are respectful, and utilize soft skills, we can build a good reputation and be successful in the IT profession.”
For others who are new to the country, she encourages them to continue their education in the U.S. and “to take advantage of all the different resources that Seminole State offers to students to help them be successful when they go into the real world.”
This advice is based on her own experience. After just six years, Suarez has changed countries, completed her degree, landed a professional job and is set to finish her next degree in July. It was her professors at the College who pushed her to continue her education and Suarez said, “Even though I am graduating with a master’s from USF, I feel as though Seminole State will always be my alma mater.”
Seminole State College Alumni Association: The Seminole State College Alumni Association provides benefits and services for alumni as they continue their lifelong connection with Seminole State College of Florida, providing opportunities for them to network with one another, interact with the student body and support the College. To learn more, visit the Alumni Association website.