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University of St. Thomas-Houston gives cybersecurity students essential edge with ISSA mentoring partnership

Information Systems Security Association member Cindy Boyd prepares UST's second cybersecurity cohort to get the most out of being mentoredSomething everyone deserves from their chosen university is a commitment to giving students an essential edge in their selected career field. Here’s a story about that.

On the heels of a highly beneficial mentoring experience by its first global cybersecurity program cohort, the University of St. Thomas-Houston is again pairing students from its second cohort with professional mentors from the prestigious Information Systems Security Association (ISSA). On Sept. 13, students attended a workshop led by ISSA member and Founder of Sentigy, Cindy Boyd, to prepare them for getting the most out of being mentored. She covered crucial soft skills like how to be an accomplished listener and what to expect from mentorship.

A Well-structured Mentorship Is Key

The brilliant partnership with ISSA is the brainchild of UST’s Director of Global Cybersecurity program, Assistant Professor Eric C. Botts.

UST's second cybersecurity cohort of mentees: Carol Martinez is front row, second from left, followed by ISSA's Cindy Boyd and UST's Director of Global Cybersecurity Eric Botts“A well-structured mentorship program like the one we have with ISSA allows our UST cybersecurity students to network and learn from noted industry professionals who can pass on real-world experiences and introduce the students to an exciting and rewarding cybersecurity community,” Botts said.

Examples from a Mentor-Mentee Relationship

Senior student Carol Martinez, scheduled to graduate in 2024, was in the first cohort and continues working with her mentor, a recognized leader in cybersecurity and Founder and CEO of Cyber Point Advisory LLC, Dd Budiharto. Martinez, a first-generation college student who works as an intern at Engie, meets monthly with Budiharto.

“The mentoring has been fantastic,” the somewhat shy Martinez said. “With Dd’s guidance, I’ve gained the confidence to interact with the cybersecurity professionals I meet … let them know who I am and what I’m trying to do. Also, my mentor invited me to the SecureWorld Conference, where she was a featured speaker and Eric Botts was a panelist. Three other UST students attended with their mentors. I can say my mentoring experience has been incredible.”

Budiharto calls herself a cybersecurity evangelist. She enjoys giving her student mentee “a peek behind the curtain of real-world case studies and practical challenges both in the technical and human skills.”

ISSA cybersecurity mentor Dd Budiharto, Founder and CEO of Clear Point Advisory LLCShe said, “For example, I was able to provide Carol with my experience as an incident response commander during a cybersecurity attack on one of the organizations I worked with.”

Budiharto also introduced Martinez to a network of cybersecurity professionals and events, which can be valuable for future job opportunities, references and project collaboration. She also prepared her mentee to succeed in networking and job interviews by providing her with talking points.

“Since I have a wide network in Houston, I provided referrals to the people Carol would be interviewing with at a local conference,” Budiharto said. “One of her employers approached me during a conference with glowing feedback about Carol and thanked me for the referral.”

Botts assesses the ISSA Mentoring Program without mincing words.

“It’s absolutely amazing how it’s turned out,” he asserted.

Students participating in the mentoring program also become members of the UST ISSA student chapter, which comes with free attendance to ISSA-sponsored events.