I was admitted into the NSERC Cybersecurity CREATE program’s Master’s thesis stream in 2019 and graduated in 2021. This was following my successful completion of a “qualifying year” within Queen’s University School of Computing. This program offers students from a multitude of backgrounds (such as my bachelor’s degree in Chemical Biology) to complete a one-year “accelerated undergraduate” program and garter the necessary foundational skills in computer science. Coming in with no coding experience, this program taught me multiple programming languages, algorithms, and data structures, allowing me to successfully complete my Master’s degree.
The NSERC Cybersecurity CREATE program consisted of a mix of academic and experiential learning that facilitated my transition into cybersecurity as a career. There were many interesting academic courses that provided the necessary foundations in technical and theoretical cybersecurity concepts. The program covered multiple areas such as forensics, policy, malware, incident response and network security, offered both at Queen’s University and Royal Military Collage. I worked closely with my professors to customize my course deliverables to my research area of interest. The professors were always accessible and very well connected within the field. This allowed me to build upon my knowledge base and simultaneously work towards completing my thesis-based Master’s.
The strong emphasis placed on experiential learning experiences throughout the program was highly useful. Developing business (soft) skills was facilitated through various workshops, seminars and courses that taught communication, presentation, and writing skills. A tabletop exercise was also conduced in partnership with IBM to simulate a cyber incident, and we played roles of various government bodies to understand how Canada would respond to a cyber incident. This high-pressured scenario was one of my fondest experiences in the program.
The final component of the program involved doing an internship within the industry, which I completed with Deloitte Canada. My learning experiences from the program immediately benefited me in performing as a Cybersecurity Consultant. The program positioned me to quickly grasp new frameworks and concepts, and hit the ground running during my time with Deloitte. Overall, the NSERC Cybersecurity CREATE program provides a unique opportunity for individuals from diverse backgrounds looking to transition into a cybersecurity career. Being one of the first of its kind, it provides the necessary learning to become a well-rounded cybersecurity professional within any specialization.
I recently completed my Ph.D. as part of the NSERC Cybersecurity Create program. I have spent over three years in the program, which helped me build valuable skills, including project management, leadership, and communication skills, that I am currently employing in my career.
In terms of cybersecurity knowledge, the program offers fundamental courses that broaden my experience in the area. One interesting aspect of the Cybersecurity Create program is that it is not limited to technical courses only. I took a social science course that helped me explore and assess the digitized world cybersecurity challenges and the role of governments. We covered various topics, including cyberterrorism and cyberespionage, cybercrime, cyberwar, and counterterrorism.
The program offered great experiential learning opportunities and helped me make crucial professional connections. As part of the program, I had an internship at Irdeto, Canada, which prepared me for real-world cybersecurity challenges. The industry partners gave us valuable and constructive feedback on our research. We successfully designed a vulnerability-oriented fuzz testing framework patented and published in IEEE Transaction on Reliability Journal. In collaboration with Irdeto, we also published several other papers in reputable venues (e.g., IEEE Internet of Things Journal and the International Symposium on Software Reliability Engineering (ISSRE) conference).
Undoubtedly, the most valuable experience I had was working with my supervisor Prof. Mohammad Zulkernine whose guidance and profound knowledge helped me make informed decisions that shaped my research.
Thanks to all the skills I earned in this program, I am currently working at Security Compass as a Senior Security Researcher. I advise anyone seeking a professional career in cybersecurity, whether in the industry or academia, to join the CREATE Cybersecurity Program.
As a Master’s of Public Administration student, the CREATE program provided me with the training to be successful in a non-technical cybersecurity position. By taking two courses at RMC, I was able to expand my knowledge and understanding of cyber threats. These courses provided me with the necessary background for my internship with the National Cybercrime Coordination Centre (NC3). After completing my internship, NC3 offered me a full-time contract position.
Outside of work, I am using my training from the CREATE program to educate young Canadians on cyber safety. I designed a 90 minute workshop for my Girl Guides (ages 9-11) on cyber safety. If you would like me to send you materials or lead a workshop for a youth/children’s group, do not hesitate to reach out.
I would recommend the NSERC CREATE program to any student who is interested in cybersecurity. Even without technical training (coding etc) the program helped me understand cyber space and how everyday Canadians are impacted.
I found the CREATE program to be a very easy way to learn the essentials of the cybersecurity field, especially as a newcomer to this side of the IT world like I was. Having graduated, I find the required cybersecurity courses in the program follow very similar education topics that many of the key certifications cover, giving me peace of mind that the material I learned was relevant and useful in the real world. I really enjoyed the ability to take courses at RMC because it allowed me to specialize and gain hands-on experience into some more technical topics within cybersecurity I was interested in. I was able to find a position in the field while I was finishing my degree and although every job will be different, the CREATE program definitely gave me a good foundation of cybersecurity knowledge so that I was comfortable entering the industry after graduation.
2019-2020 NSERC Cybersecurity CREATE Program Participant, MPA Category
Over the past year and a half, I participated in and recently completed the NSERC Cybersecurity CREATE Program. As a Queen’s Master of Public Administration student who was interested in cybersecurity but did not initially have a strong technical or cyber background, I found this certificate program to be an extremely rewarding opportunity that accentuated my master’s degree.
The program guided me to participate in a diverse number of areas, including ongoing meetings with the participants on the Computer Science side of the program, attend conferences, and develop my career skillset through the Queen’s Learning Hub courses. In partnership with IBM, the program also facilitated a Tabletop exercise, where we participated as cybersecurity officers during a critical infrastructure attack. Under the guidance of Professor Christian Leuprecht and as part of this program, I was able to write a research paper on cyberespionage, expanding my understanding of the current legislative regime in connection to the changing nature of espionage.
Two central elements that I found to be most interesting and useful in this program were enrolling in the two cyber courses at the Royal Military College, which broadened my understanding of cyber, especially in connection to Government functions, international relations and of the current global cyber environment.
The second part that I found beneficial was the internship with a Government of Canada department. I had a summer internship with the National Cybercrime Coordination Unit and had the opportunity to work on policy with very talented and experienced policy professionals.
Above all, I believe that the Cybersecurity CREATE Program will be beneficial to anyone who has a strong interest in a career in cyber policy development and analysis. I thoroughly enjoyed this certificate, and it provided me with the experience necessary for a career within the cyber ecosystem and encouraged me to continue research in this field.