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Project Ares Students: a conversation with Benny Walker

A Cybersecurity Success Story from an Urban City Codes Student

I had an excellent conversation with Benny Walker – an alum of the Urban City Codes program. We discussed his cybersecurity learning journey and how his long time love for technology drove him to pursue new skills.

Giuseppe Scalamogna from Project Ares and Benny Walker talk about pursuing cybersecurity education.

How did you find out about Urban City codes?

I was talking to a family member who works in IT about an incident that happened at work, and they mentioned the program at Urban City Codes. Initially, I thought I wasn’t computer savvy enough to go through a program like that. I’m from the old school of technology and coded in Pascal. I thought maybe new technology had passed me up, but she encouraged me to think about it.

I just needed that little push! I signed up for the class right away and ever since then I’ve been all in on my studies. I really like the cybersecurity industry.

Can you tell me a little bit more about your career in government service?

I’ve worked at the Veterans Administration in their Finance & Payroll Department for 13 years and I enjoy being in the service. Being a Marine was a very fulfilling job and I especially enjoy being able to help my comrades now because when you’re in the service there are three main things you need to make sure you have: food, your pay, and good supplies!
I love being able to help veterans get their pay together. Seeing how grateful people are in this community is very fulfilling.

What got you interested in cybersecurity?

I was working with the Ohio Inspector General to research an incident where a veteran called in to say they had not received their pay. I noticed that there was a potential for agents to manipulate the system by adding an alternate address or bank account. I started to review accounts and discovered that an employee had diverted funds to their own account, and I knew that we needed to setup safety protocols to prevent this from happening again. As a result, security around these account systems tightened and secure passwords went into effect.
I’m very curious and I analyze systems to discover the ins and outs of how they work. I often wonder, ‘What if somebody did this? How can we protect that?’ I’m always trying to figure things out and looking for new challenges.

What made you want to use Project Ares after finishing your Urban City Codes program?

When I first started with Urban City Codes, I didn’t know a lot about cybersecurity but as I started to go deeper into the course and learned about ports and protocols using Portflow in Project Ares, things started to click for me. Also, I really enjoyed learning about number system conversions and work roles using Project Ares learning games like Cyqual and CyberVault. As our bootcamp was ending, I wanted to review the materials again and continue my training once I felt more comfortable with the materials.

What’s up next for your cybersecurity learning journey?

I’m reviewing materials now to sharpen my skills and I’m planning to pursue certifications in CompTIA Security+, eJPT, Burp Suite, SPLUNK, Azure, and AWS starting in June.

Do you have advice on how to start in cybersecurity for non-traditional students?

My best advice for someone like me who is coming “late to the game” would be to have a plan and then, just do it even though it’s going to be hard. Once you put in the time, you will see the benefits. I always say that you’ve got to have plan on how you’re going to reach your goal and work at that with consistency. Once you have a plan and approach it with consistency everything else will take care of itself.

You must continue the work at learning cybersecurity because if not you will get rusty. This is an ever-changing career, there’s always going to be something new: a new malware, a new virus, new techniques, so you must stay aware of what’s happening in the industry.
The Project Ares team appreciates all we learn from our students.

We’re excited by their passion, drive, and desire to be successful! Thank you Benny, and best of success in your cybersecurity career journey.


Check out other success stories (opens new window) where we continue to explore what inspires and motivates Project Ares (opens new window) students and why cybersecurity is important to them.

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