From High Art to Help Tickets: Inside Patricia Harding’s Exciting Career Change
Patricia Harding lives in Kansas with her husband. After attending school for art, she eventually found herself settling into communications and emergency and disaster management, landing a job in national security.
“I worked for a company doing federal background checks, and learning about security risks was really interesting,” said Patricia. “I started reading up on national security and heard a lot about it on the news. I thought it seemed really exciting, and decided it was something I wanted to pursue.”
Taking the first step
These cascading experiences ignited a passion that inspired Patricia to research and enroll in KU Cybersecurity Boot Camp.
Today, Patricia is able to trace her success in the boot camp back to her experience in emergency and disaster management. As she explained, “Learning how to understand and mitigate threats gave me the ability to come up with strategic questions like, ‘What could go wrong here? How can we best handle harmful situations?’”
The virtual nature of the boot camp allowed Patricia to attend from home. She made sure to arrive to the digital classes early to discuss course information, homework, and projects with her instructors. After class time, she enjoyed connecting with her peers — the very same ones who would become her group project teammates — to share learnings and collaborate on assignments.
“It was always a really active, hands-on experience, so you weren’t just sitting there and listening,” Patricia recalled. “We would show each other scripts and screenshots of what we were working on to maximize our learning potential.”
She worked on three group projects and used channels like Zoom and text messaging to share progress updates and dig deeper into the learning material. For one particularly memorable project, Patricia’s group built a virtual network complete with security groups and access authorization — then simulated network attacks to see how easy it was to acquire fake login credentials and learn how to mitigate similar attacks in a real-world setting.
As someone completely new to cybersecurity, Patricia was grateful for the opportunity to see what her future career might entail. Experiences like this were exactly what she had hoped to get out of the boot camp — leaving her excited for what would come next.
Building a bridge from the boot camp to a new role
Through the boot camp, Patricia was also able to sharpen valuable soft skills. The program’s assignments and group projects required Patricia to hone her critical thinking approach. She also became a better communicator through active team collaborations, which improved her public speaking skills. “Being able to say, ‘Hey, let me see your screen; what are you doing here, and why are you doing it that way?’ made me a more active critical thinker, and more collaborative,” she shared.
Another valuable aspect of the boot camp was the Career Services support Patricia received from day one. Week after week, she took advantage of each and every service offered, from resume coaching to LinkedIn profile optimization sessions.
“I did all the homework,” said Patricia. “If you really want to take advantage of what this boot camp offers, you need to do all of it.”
After amplifying her career presence across a variety of different avenues, Patricia began receiving several interview requests from recruiters before she had even graduated from the boot camp. Her classmates were blown away by how quickly Patricia had made a splash in the job market. “People would ask me how they could achieve similar outcomes,” Patricia recalled. “I loved being able to help out by showing them what the Career Services department had walked me through.”
Solving problems with new knowledge
One company that took notice of Patricia’s dedication to making the most of her boot camp experience was Leidos. They reached out to her after responding positively to how her resume was presented. “They were able to quickly understand the exact situation I was in, and how I was new to the cybersecurity world,” said Patricia. “They said they were really interested in meeting with me after I graduated from the boot camp.”
Less than a month after her final day in the boot camp, Patricia was brought onto the Leidos team as a help desk analyst. She works from home, providing service desk support to customers by phone to resolve any issues they have with programs like Outlook and Active Directory. In her current position, she’s at the first tier of her role, so if a customer needs help with something beyond her capabilities, she can easily communicate the processes that have already been attempted to a higher tier associate to ensure optimal efficiency and a positive customer experience.
Patricia believes this opportunity was only made possible because she took a leap of faith. “I had no background in cybersecurity, but the boot camp never left me feeling at sea,” she reflected. “I received support from everyone, and we’re still connected and communicating today. If you’re thinking about enrolling in the program, I really recommend it.”
Are you ready to take the first steps along the path to an incredible career in tech? Explore KU Boot Camps in coding, data analytics, cybersecurity, and tech project management today.