Tech Prep Student Success Stories

View some of the past Tech Prep student success stories below:

Brandon Dixon 2008

Remarks from Brandon Dixon's 'Baltimore County Tech Prep Executive Council Dinner Meeting' speech on March 18th, 2008.

First off, I would like to thank the Community College of Baltimore County for inviting me to speak here today and share my experience.
Often times I stop and observe where I have come to in my life. Less than 2 years ago I was still in high school just waiting for it to be over, and now I am in my last year of completing my BS and working full time as an information systems security engineer.

I think that I have come extremely far since high school and I honestly feel that I owe all of my success to both the CTE program and my technical instructor and friend, Nancy Null. The Network Administration program was able to introduce the information technology world to me. It was something I had never thought I would eventually make a career out of and I can’t be certain I would have discovered it on my own.

In my senior year reality set in and I knew networking and information technology was what I wanted to do. Since I was already earning college credits towards a networking degree, I knew I was ahead of my peers and that gave me an edge. One thing that I was particularly interested in was the PEP program the high school offered. After enrollment into PEP, I decided I would start attending night classes at CCBC in my senior year. Even though I was still in high school I wanted to take a full load of classes at the college. Now that I look back, I see that I was testing my limits. It turned out to work in my favor because I was able to optimize the amount of work I accomplished, without sacrificing any quality. By the time I graduated from high school in June of 2006, I had earned around 40 credits that I could apply to my 4 year degree. It was only 1 year after my high school graduation that I was graduating from CCBC with my AAS in networking technology.

The CTE and PEP programs helped me to become a more responsible, hardworking professional. I think the greatest thing I took out of both programs was my ability to take on extremely large loads and still succeed. I think most students got a teacher that scared you into thinking college was going to be some day and night difference from high school. Both these programs made the transition from high school to college extremely easy.

The tech school experience was one I would recommend to any student curious about a certain career path. Whether or not you end up going into that field, you will end up with a wealth of professional knowledge and still have a complete education just like any other student would. Sollers Point was able to give me the knowledge and background to present myself in a way that would benefit me in the future.

Since CCBC I have been keeping busy. I began classes at Capitol College last Fall with a major in Information Assurance. I was able to transfer more than 50 credits from CCBC to Capitol and that will now allow me to graduate in Fall of 2009. Capitol College made the transfer easy, almost transparent aside from the physical location. They accepted all my credits with no questions asked. Also, thanks to the transferred credits from CCBC and my hard work to obtain a high GPA, I was awarded a community college scholarship at Capitol College. This scholarship covered half of my tuition ($10,000) and was indeed a great reward after putting in a lot of hard work.

Outside of the academic arena, I have been working in the information technology field as a security engineer. I have participated as lead tech. on a large NSA contract in which I designed, built and configured several complete networks used to simulate an Internet Service Provider. I was also assigned to diagnose a real-time network attack and come up with a quick solution on the fly and then revisit the customer to develop a complete solution to protect and identify any Internet threats. Not only were these experiences a great way to exhibit my technical knowledge, but it also have me a chance to interact with people on a business level.

Networking with people has helped me use my Sollers Point skills, too. This has opened so many opportunities for me including this one here today. I have been published several times by Hakin9 magazine which is published in several countries and since June of 2007 have been assisting the chief editor in reviewing articles I also work with several security researchers from around the world to identify new problems in both software and hardware.

As for the future, besides working, I would like to pursue my Masters degree in computer science from one of the top schools in the nation for computer science, UMBC. Not only would a Masters degree open even more opportunities, but it will also give me a more complete picture of how to apply math and science to my everyday security engineering work. I hope to complete my Masters in two years. While taking these courses and working full time, I would like to add professional certifications beyond my current CCNA to my resume.

Upon completion of my Masters I would like to switch gears to a higher technical position or supervisory level, while continuing to participate in the security community by writing for Hakin9 magazine and performing volunteer research for GNUCITIZEN (a London based security think-tank). With enough dedicated time and experience I hope to change the way the common user perceives security. My ultimate goal is to retire from a technical supervisor position and teach at a local college or speak at major security conferences such as DEFCON and BlackHat. I hope by ”giving back” to others in the field that they too will become inspired to look outside of the box and to push themselves as hard as possible to find that next vulnerability.

I will have a full plate of work ahead of me, but that does not detract me nor intimidate me. As a personal goal and a possible senior project I am working with the dean of Capitol College to formulate ways to improve a student's, ”Capitol experience” in the information assurance program. This includes, but is not limited to, revamping the information assurance curriculum as well as making small modifications to teaching styles so that students are able to easily transition not only from class to class, but also from classroom to workforce.

What would be my picture of the “perfect future”? Establishing my own home, a stable family, a challenging and fulfilling career, and the goal that everyone who comes in contact with me will walk away with a new fact, idea or way of looking at something.

I did not acquire these goals by myself. My experiences with the Network Administration program, Tech Prep articulated credits, PEP, and the CCBC articulated credits that seamlessly transferred into Capitol College kept me pointed me in the right direction and gave me the skills I needed to move toward my goals with confidence. Thank you for these programs and thank you for the opportunities they provided for me, and continue to provide for thousands of other students.

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