Joining Leeds Beckett through Clearing
Originally, I had no plans to attend university. I attended a couple of Open Days, but nothing ever came of these. I took a year out working in catering, and retail. During this period, I started to become more aware of cybersecurity, realising this was my calling and where I wanted to ultimately end up. After looking at numerous job advertisements, it became evident that the only way to break into the industry was with a degree. I became disheartened, after looking at several courses offered by different universities, I realised that my grades weren’t good enough to apply. I spoke with my college tutor a number of times, hoping that I could get a second chance. Then, I read into the Clearing process, and things started to look brighter!
The Clearing process was simple. I called the Clearing team a week before Clearing started to find out exactly what I needed to do to apply, and they couldn't have been more helpful! Three days later, I had sorted my UCAS account, written my personal statement, received a reference from my manager, and was ready to go. I called the Clearing team again and explained that I understood I was early, but could they do anything. Since I already had my grades, they were able to tell me they would process my application and, if I called on the day Clearing opened, they would instantly offer me the place. I called and they did just that. I was going to university! Applying for finance was a little short notice, but it all went through and payments were arranged in plenty of time.
Leeds Beckett was one of two universities that I had a look round. The other being up in Scotland. The course at Leeds Beckett covered a wider range of skills than the other university, with forensics and security over just security. It was also much closer to home, although not so close that the parents would be visiting every weekend! I had also worked with a lot of people who were born and raised in Yorkshire, and they had nothing but positive things to say about Leeds.
My time at Leeds Beckett
It was great! You'll find that the courses are designed to get a little more difficult each level, but there's never a huge leap. Just remember, if you're not struggling a little you're not learning. If you're struggling a lot, you've gone too far and need to start smaller.
You'll have a personal tutor each year, they are there to make sure that you're enjoying your time on the course and you're not struggling. Engage with them, if you have any issues, no matter how big or small, talk to them. They will guide you and put things in place to help. I made the mistake of not really engaging with my tutors, until the final year. My project supervisor offered a lot of advice and support. It was nice to have someone else's input, it really opened my mind to alternative ideas.
In my first year, I joined the Ethical Hacking Society, becoming the President in my second year. It was a great way to meet new people, make new friends, talk to employers, and attend conferences. The latter being one of the best parts. I would highly recommend joining to anyone that wants to gain the most from their time at university, and the committee taking the reins in September are friendly and welcoming.
On some courses you’ll get the opportunity to do a work placement. I didn't actually get my placement until around a week before I was due to start final year. It was a place that the careers team found and was originally advertised as a graduate role. I applied and was offered an interview, being offered the job just a few hours later! The company, Compliance365, was fairly small, but this made it such a nice place to work. I was the database administrator, which was a huge learning curve as I'd never done anything like that before. My manager was extremely supportive and knowledgeable and helped me get up to speed quickly. He was aware that I had initially been looking for a security base role and so threw as much security-related work my way he could. My role was to ensure that the databases were constantly backed up, restore databases for reports, optimise the servers and ensure they were running efficiently, and create reports to help monitor the systems. Additionally, I also did some programming, creating applications to help my role, and helped arrange a security test of their systems, which gave me a great insight into that side of cybersecurity.
My favourite thing about Leeds itself has to be the size of the city. Leeds has a lot of options when it comes to shopping, dining, and things to do, comparable to the likes of Manchester. However, it's compact. So, it won't take anywhere near as long to walk through the city. I also like the diversity, there's so many different nationalities, religions, and people. They're all happy to teach you more about their ways. Whilst in Leeds, I worked with a number of different religions that I'd never experienced back home, and I learnt so much about their celebrations and events. It was great!
Graduating and the future
Graduation was such an experience for me. There were many mixed emotions but overall it was a very joyous day. My highlights were walking across the stage and being able to see friends walking across the stage, celebrating four, long, years together.
Next for me? Well, in December, I was offered a place at BT. On their cybersecurity graduate program. I'll be based in their SOC (Security Operations Centre) and my role will be to monitor the networks of their customers. Investigating and alerting them to any possible attacks. They'll also be covering the costs of a range of certifications, which will all look great to any potential future employers.
If I could give any advice to freshers just about to start their university journey I’d say take full advantage of your time at University. Most people think that it's all about partying. You might get away with that in your first year, but second and third, you'll really need to knuckle down, if you want to succeed. Take advantage of any opportunities you're offered, they'll really pay off in the future. Finally, talk to those in the years above. They've been in your position and will be happy to help you if you're stuck. That said, if anyone is choosing the Forensics and Security course, you're more than welcome to get in touch and ask any questions you may have! You can find me on Facebook, or if you're on Twitter @_GarethP