Home SANS Women's Immersion Academy - I'm in!

SANS Women's Immersion Academy - I'm in!

A year ago, as I was starting to refresh my Python and Bash skills, I would never have imagined that today I would be here. When I got intrigued by a “Practical Ethical Hacking” class on Udemy, I didn’t know where it would lead me.

Soon after taking those small steps and completing the courses, I decided to explore cybersecurity as a career transition. But how do you move from a digital communications background and some off the records programming experience to a career that, at least on paper and for the most part, requires specific degrees, certifications, and an IT background? Especially, how do you do that while working in nonprofits and not being able to afford most of the fancy credentials that other people can claim?

I started doing some research to understand what free or cheap resources I could get access to, in order to build that training and experience for myself. And the SANS Women’s Immersion Academy caught my eye, given their world-class education paths and knowing how valuable GIAC certifications are. I knew they would most likely open the application process in March, so I set a reminder on my calendar and got on with more training and learning.

Application process, part one: online application and technical assessment

I started my application to the Academy a few days after SANS opened the portal, as I wanted to make sure I’d have enough time to go through all the steps and avoid rushing. There are a few forms that need to be filled and they include personal information as well as work and education history.

Right after submitting that, I received an email with an invitation to complete an online technical assessment with 50 questions and two hours of available time, which needed to be completed within the following five days.

Application process, part two: documents, references, and video submission

The day after completing the technical assessment, I received another email requesting:

  • Recommendation letters: I asked my former supervisor and two of my colleagues to submit a letter on my behalf.
  • College transcripts: Since I went to college in Italy (my home country,) I submitted both the transcripts and their certified translation.
  • Video submission: In three minutes, I explained why I was interested in pursuing cybersecurity and why I would have been successful if accepted into the Academy.

Then, came the wait, a long wait of a little over two months. Even though I had almost lost hope, I heard rumors on social media saying that they had an outstanding number of applicants, reason why they were taking longer than expected to process all the applications.

I was very excited when I heard back from the Academy towards the end of May: I was invited to a phone interview, which I scheduled for early June.

Application process, part three: phone interview

During the first week of June, I was interviewed by the Director of the Academy and it was a really pleasant chat. He asked me about my background and how I had become passionate about cybersecurity. He also wanted to make sure I’d be aware of the commitment that the Academy requires of all the students.

The decision

On a Friday afternoon in early June, I received THAT email notification. The one that, in the subject line, says: “An Important Update To Your SANS Cyber Academy Application.” I froze for a moment and started breathing heavily. “Here we are, here we are,” I kept saying in my head.

I took a deep breath, logged in, and there it was.

Dear [my full name],

Thank you for your interest in the SANS Women’s Immersion Academy, and congratulations!

SANS is excited to extend you an invitation to enroll in the Academy. You are one of a select few to be afforded the opportunity to immerse yourself in intensive, high-end hands-on security courses from the SANS Institute.

Woah. I couldn’t be happier.

A few days after responding with a “HECK YEAH,” I received more information and an invite to a kickoff Zoom call, which is scheduled for later today.

Off to this new adventure!

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.