When Wayne Grant was given the chance to gain a fully funded Masters in Cyber Security whilst learning on the job, it was an opportunity not to be missed.
I was part of a newly formed Cyber Security team when the opportunity to apply for the 18-month MSc Cyber Security Graduate Apprenticeship came along. Having wanted to work in cyber security for some years, I jumped at the chance to work towards a degree whilst also learning how to do the job.
Initially, adjusting to the workload of studying for a Masters was challenging. However, the main reason that it was manageable for me was the 20% time that my employer provides to study. There is still a time requirement over and above that day a week that is necessary to complete all the work, so it’s worth being aware of that. I have always been upfront with anyone who asks for my view of the programme and with those who I now Mentor that the programme is demanding. It is a Masters degree so be prepared for the demands of the course which does take some balancing with your day job.
Although I had the support of my workplace Mentor, I am a self-starter who has been working in technology for more than 20 years so have the ability and drive to manage my own learning, and I think that’s important for the work based elements of the degree. On the academic side, the support that has come from the University has been invaluable from Sotirios as the Programme Director and the Work Based Learning Advisors.
I had identified my work based project for my final dissertation very early on in my studies and spent some time exploring the ideas and de-risking. As a natural worrier, I didn’t want to get half way through and realise that it wasn’t going to work as a project. I wanted to have a successful outcome for the firm at the same time as completing the academic piece of work. I sought advice from Sotirios to get the reassurance that my idea would be a suitable project and it was helpful to know from an early stage what I would be focussing on. I have been working on my dissertation for almost 6 months now having completed the Research Methodology class.
I am working on an application dissertation which will see a working software solution produced as the end result, it’s been good in the sense that it is a part of my job that I enjoy. Admittedly, writing it up has been more of a struggle but I am making good progress and it won’t be long until it’s complete. My Academic Supervisor has been excellent and we meet every couple of weeks. They give me good advice generally as well as feedback on not only the structure of the dissertation as an academic piece of work but also on the software solution itself. Because this is their area, they just gets what I’m trying to accomplish and that’s been really useful. We have also worked together to find work arounds for how I will provide the evidence required for my project due to the confidential nature of my organisation’s work and the fintech sector in general. What has been great is having that option which means that I am at no disadvantage by being restricted in what details and evidence I can provide.
My second round of study within the CIS department at Strathclyde has been completely different from my undergraduate experience. I am a different person in a different place in life now. From a cohort of more mature people, you challenge more, feedback more and speak out more and I think that has been really important. You also need to find the balance of time and I have also taken advantage of the lockdown situation over the last year and used a lot of the time to complete the work. I don’t have the time to dedicate during the week due to work commitments so I work a few hours spread across the weekend. Yet, I do look forward to completing my studies come March and filling my free time with something different!
For me personally, I want to stay working in cyber and this degree will help me do that. As it is an area now driven so heavily by qualifications, this was my qualification of choice over certifications. I didn’t want to do a course that was about just passing exams. The practical elements are what I was most interested in, and that is more useful than just learning to pass exams. What I will have instead is a representative qualification that was worth the effort of learning and has filled gaps in my knowledge.
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Graduate Apprenticeships in Scotland are funded by Skills Development Scotland