Former Teacher Builds Success in BI and Beyond With CompTIA

An English teacher with a tech background shares how she transitioned to a cybersecurity career with CompTIA Security+.

Former Teacher Builds Success in BI and Beyond With CompTIAIn 2016, Tracey Osborn was teaching English at a South Carolina high school. Outside of the classroom, it was a year filled with headline-grabbing data breaches. While she was following the unfolding drama in the news daily, her interest in cybersecurity began years earlier, with the 2013 infamous Target data breach.

With previous experience doing device support for a local telecom service and tech support for a broadband company, she was fascinated by the details. The scope and scale of the breach made it the highest-profile cyber incident up to that point, signaling to the world that cybersecurity was not a niche concern—it impacted everyone. By 2016 that was even more obvious, with cyberattacks targeting businesses and organizations big and small occurring almost daily.

It was only a matter of time until a cybersecurity incident struck Osborn closer to home.

Attempting to check her work email one day, Osborn found herself locked out. She reached out to her friend who worked in the IT department, seeking an explanation. He informed her that, while the school was keeping quiet, there had been a ransomware attack.

“I was annoyed that hackers would go after kids and teachers,” Osborn said. “I found that to be, as a teacher, just terrible. I [wanted] to do something.”

Osborn was, at that point, already looking to move from public school teaching into a different career. Her interest piqued by local and global events, she asked her friend how he would recommend getting into cybersecurity. He told her to consider earning CompTIA Security+ certification. And as it turns out, this would not be the only time she would hear such advice.

CompTIA Certification Everywhere

As Osborn got more serious about pursuing a cybersecurity career, all things seemed to point to CompTIA. At a local office dedicated to upskilling, an expert told her that if she was interested in a technology job, CompTIA certifications would get her there. Online, she found CompTIA certifications topping the lists of valuable resources on Google and saw them frequently discussed by the career-building vloggers she was watching on YouTube. In 2018, she got started.

Osborn already knew a thing or two about studying, with a master’s degree in business administration and another master’s degree in instructional design. The CompTIA certification study resources jumped out to her as a good way to dive into the CompTIA Security+ material. She was not disappointed.

“I did find [the CompTIA Security+ exam] to be challenging, but I found that the CompTIA study materials were very, very useful,” Osborn said. “I enjoyed CertMaster Practice.”

Osborn earned CompTIA Security+ and started her job search in earnest. Her opportunity arose one day when she was flipping through the local job postings in the newspaper. She found a small, unassuming announcement from a managed services provider (MSP) called Provalus.

“They were trying to be all quiet about it,” Osborn said. “Just a little ad, like, if you’re interested in IT, network security, security operations, stuff like this, then go to the college.”

A Tech Titan Comes to Town, Quietly

When Osborn arrived, she found that the low-key ad had garnered a huge response. Out-of-towners and locals packed the event, which turned out to be more than just informational. Provalus was hosting a huge group interview for the nationwide company, putting out feelers to determine the quality of the local tech talent as it planned to launch a presence somewhere in the Carolinas.

The potential openings on the table were a help desk role and a business intelligence (BI) analyst position. Osborn’s credentials looked strong; in addition to CompTIA Security+ certification, she had earned AWS Cloud Practitioner and was learning Python.

She had expected a possible shot at the entry-level role, but with powerful certifications to her name, she was chosen for the more advanced one. Provalus soon set up shop in town, and Osborn was quickly demonstrating that her talent, skills and potential matched her credentials.

Digging Into the Data With Business Intelligence

Osborn began in 2019 as a business intelligence analyst, parsing the data coming in from the help desk and security operations center (SOC) for one, 6,000-customer global client. She proved to be natural at identifying and sharing business-critical insights on complex systems.

These days it is more critical than ever for businesses, and the managed security service providers (MSSPs) that support them, to understand what is happening on their networks, know what steps to take and have staff with both the  knowledge to make those calls and the ability to communicate them to business leaders. BI professionals do that, and since joining Provalus, Osborn has thrived at it. In fact, not long after she started in the position, she was quickly promoted to lead, with a second analyst brought on under her purview.

Today, Osborn spends her days diving deep into metrics. Logged into Azure and other virtual environments, she pulls data from solutions like interactive voice response (IVR) and ServiceNow, puts together reports in Power BI (for which she is also certified) and sends them to team leads to help them understand aspects of client operations, like traffic patterns and ticket resolution speed. 

Such reports inspire action. Putting together business reviews with visual charts to demonstrate trend data, Osborn offers suggestions on, for instance, how to mobilize staffing around traffic peaks. Her cybersecurity skills, too, come in handy. If there is an anomaly that looks like a cybersecurity threat, she points it out to the cybersecurity team, and makes informed, creative suggestions, like providing custom security training to those staff in roles most likely to be targeted.

Osborn plays a critical role in operational improvement and robust cybersecurity for both Provalus and the clients it supports. This career, however, is only one of the endeavors she is building, with CompTIA’s help, in the world of IT, data analytics and cybersecurity.

A New CompTIA-Driven Training Endeavor

Osborn recently earned CompTIA Certified Technical Trainer (CTT+) certification, and is preparing to launch a training business called IT Security Squad. Through it, she plans to provide CompTIA cybersecurity certification training for CompTIA Security+ and CompTIA Data+. The latter she plans to earn herself, with the goal of picking up a new skill or two and ensuring the ones she uses every day remain aligned with industry best practices.

Combining her love for teaching and language, her technical writing acumen, her entrepreneurial, business-building instincts and her hard-earned hands-on tech knowledge, Osborn is developing a resource that will help people follow the very professional path she has found so fulfilling. She has seen first-hand how CompTIA certification can open up opportunities and to say that she speaks highly of being certified may be an understatement.

“I found it more valuable than my college,” Osborn said. “[Traditional degrees] gave me general information that I need but as far as getting skills employers are looking for, the thing that they’re looking for is going to be the CompTIA certification. That’s the one thing that got me the job. It wasn’t the master’s degrees. I’m very thankful for CompTIA. I’m living the dream.”

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Matthew Stern is a freelance writer based in Chicago who covers information technology and various other topics and industries.

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