Securing His Future: How This Cybersecurity Learner Landed a Role With Palo Alto Networks
Nirav Shah enrolled in Berkeley Cybersecurity Boot Camp as a program manager with several years of experience working for organizations like Adobe and Kohl’s. Unlike some learners, he wasn’t chasing a new career — instead, Nirav wanted to deepen his technical knowledge and bring new insights to his program management work.
But why cybersecurity, specifically? For years, Nirav had been harboring an interest in privacy and data — and after watching a particularly fascinating documentary on data rights, he was determined to learn more about how cybersecurity applied to his line of work.
“In the back of my mind, I’ve always wanted to know more about what the developers and engineers I manage are doing on the back end of projects,” said Nirav. “When the pandemic hit, we were suddenly all locked down at home, so it seemed like a great time for me to dive into something new.”
Securing new knowledge
Since program managers are highly skilled at organization and prioritization, many aspects of the boot camp came easily to Nirav. Balancing classes with part-time work wasn’t much of a challenge for this experienced program manager, and the shift to remote work during COVID-19 only highlighted Nirav’s ability to maintain a well-structured schedule.
“Having more freedom to space out my 20 work hours in any given week enabled me to go above and beyond what was required of me in the boot camp,” explained Nirav. “It was a very fast-paced program, and the last thing I wanted was to fall behind. I was constantly doing the homework assignments, meeting with tutors and instructors and attending office hours to stay up to speed with the class curriculum and excel.”
During his time in the boot camp, Nirav worked on two particularly impactful projects. For the first project, he used the Azure cloud environment to develop a jump box — a secure machine that admins connect to before performing administrative tasks or using origination points to make external connections. This was done for the sake of penetration testing, where learners attempt to hack their own systems in order to uncover hidden vulnerabilities. “I’m very curious by nature, so being able to understand a new environment, create and navigate the architecture and install incident response tools was invaluable,” said Nirav. “That project was a lot of fun.”
The second project was more technical, with Nirav and his classmates splitting into red and blue teams, where one side acted as a cyberattacker and the other side attempted to defend their machine and organization. This hands-on experience offered Nirav the opportunity to better understand the malicious tactics threat actors use to steal personal information. It also showed him how to take calm and efficient action in the event of a cyberattack.
Making the leap
By the end of the boot camp, Nirav knew he was ready for a new challenge. The boot camp’s career services support was a massive boon to Nirav’s professional development, refining his resume and emphasizing the value he could bring to a cybersecurity organization.
After interviewing at several large organizations, Nirav accepted a role as a technical program manager at Palo Alto Networks. He works as part of the project management office team where he leads various projects — key among them being new product introduction. Thanks to his cybersecurity training, he’s able to clearly and confidently understand his team’s output. “Now, I can resonate with what’s going on in the code scripts they’re pushing out for specific products,” explained Nirav.
Another way Nirav is bolstering his cybersecurity knowledge is by working as a cybersecurity boot camp instructor. “Giving back to the community is something I really enjoy,” said Nirav. “I was already using my tech project management experience to help other students understand certain areas they were struggling with, so this felt like a natural next step for me. They say the best way to learn something is to teach it, and I truly believe in that.”
Reflecting on his boot camp journey, Nirav attributes his success to a combination of dedication and camaraderie. “I took it upon myself to enroll in the cybersecurity boot camp to update my skills,” explained NIrav. “It’s been a crazy few years since the pandemic started, so I’m very grateful to all the instructors and peers I’ve met through the boot camp who have helped me get to where I am today.”