Joseph Clay

Cybersecurity Professional

About Me

Greetings all! My name is Joseph Clay and I am 26 years old. I am an Information Security Engineer at Circadence Corporation and a tutor for the Cybersecurity Bootcamp program offered by 2U Inc. I am passionate about IT and have always been interested in learning about devices, networks, and other gadgets. I like to think outside of the box. I prefer to not even be trapped in a box, ideally. 

A career in cybersecurity has been a dream of mine since the first time my iPod was hacked, back when I was 15 years old. I used to jailbreak and root all my mobile devices, and I grew to understand a lot about IT from these personal experiences. As long as I can remember, I have been taking things apart and putting them back together to learn how they work. Learning how things function is one of my greatest skills. 

I have an adventurous soul and love to explore things I’ve never encountered before. Technology is fascinating and it has captivated me since I played Carmen Sandiego on my first computer. I remember my first laptop. It was a Compaq Presario with Windows XP SP2 installed. 

My machine of choice now differs quite a bit. I usually prefer a machine with a dual-boot of Windows and Linux, and on the Windows partition, I have to have some kind of Virtual Machine manager. I use both VirtualBox and VMWare quite often. Kali Linux is my distribution of choice for all the fun stuff.

My love for technology has only grown through the years. I tried to move into other avenues in life because I thought the deeper concepts in tech would elude me. My educational background is in Psychology because at one point in my life I was planning to become a counselor. I have a BA in Psychology, and even completed the first semester of graduate school for clinical mental health counseling. I believe this understanding of the human psyche enhances my ability to dive into the mindset of hackers.

I lost the passion for counseling, but I never lost my love for IT and gadgets. Regardless of what I am doing in my personal life and professional life, my fascination with and appreciation for technology always remains. I tried my hand at working a trade after deciding counseling was not for me. Locksmithing seemed like a noble and lucrative venture. I became an apprentice locksmith and enjoyed what I was doing; I mean, I got to legally break into cars, businesses, and homes. That was awesome! This is another skill set that will no doubt aid in my ultimate goal of becoming a penetration tester.

The long work hours on-call with no free time is what finally caused me to take a look at my life and reassess whether I wanted to continue locksmithing. Not only was I mentally exhausted; I was also physically drained. Locksmithing requires a lot of manual labor. I didn’t think my knees would make it until I was ready to retire. This caused me to look back at things I enjoy doing and try to decide on a suitable career path.

Searching deep, I realized that no matter what field I was in, technology would be a dominant force in the coming years. I decided to go all-out and started studying web development on my own. I started by refreshing myself on HTML and CSS. Right as I was transitioning into learning Javascript, I began to narrow down fields that interested me in IT. Cybersecurity, and specifically, penetration testing checked all my boxes. 

I would get to break into things legally again, but I wouldn’t be physically exerting myself all the time. I could also study material that interests me and be faced with an ever-changing industry. The prospect of continual growth and learning, as well as the team spirit and challenges present in the security industry, called out to me. I immediately began searching for programs, degrees, and certifications I could obtain to further my knowledge.

Due to working full-time in retail at this point, I opted for a Bootcamp experience. I found a part-time Bootcamp at UNC Charlotte for Cybersecurity. The program boasted many topics relevant to the security sphere today, as well as training for the Security+ exam. This seemed like a great path to head down, so I threw myself into it head-first.

I started the UNC Charlotte Cybersecurity Bootcamp in September of 2019, put in countless hours of self-study and work on assignments, in addition to the tri-weekly classes. I made it out of the program with my certificate of completion in February of 2020 and a lifelong passion for security. I applied for several positions throughout this journey, and finally got a bite with a company for the position of NOC Technician. Networking was actually one of the areas in the program that I learned I had room to improve in, so I jumped at the chance to challenge myself and solidify my knowledge in this discipline.

I started working as a NOC tech in January of 2020, and I was over the moon. I finally made it into my first role in IT! My second role came a few months later in the form of a part-time position. Seeing how well I worked with others and how willing I was to help my classmates out in the Cybersecurity program, my professor recommended me for a TA position. I applied, interviewed, and was offered a job as a TA for the same Cybersecurity Bootcamp I completed. 

Working a full-time and a part-time job can be tough, but I managed it well for a month. Then, another opportunity struck when one of the other TAs in my class told me that he worked as a tutor for the bootcamp, and they were looking for more tutors. I applied for this position as well, and was offered the job. It had flexible hours, and I am in charge of my own schedule. 

I was working my fingers to the bone and gave up much of my free time during this period of time. It was a chance to dive into new technologies head first and focus on self-study even more. I spent my time studying for Security+ certification, setting up a VPN with a friend so we could practice hacking together, and studying Python programming.

It was in October of 2020 that another opportunity presented itself. A recruiter reached out to me on behalf of Circadence, looking for a passionate individual interested in hacking, cybersecurity, and education. The role he was trying to fill was for an information security engineer on the content development team. Researching Circadence, I stumbled upon Project Ares, which is the platform for which content development builds scenarios. I applied, interviewed and secured the role.

Since then, I have been learning, growing, and applying everything I learned through the many hours spent working on projects and homework for the Bootcamp, as well as during my self-study. I am learning quickly, and have gained experience in troubleshooting all kinds of issues with scenarios. I’ve also even started building them myself.

I don’t know what my future holds in the industry, but I know I want to stay in cybersecurity for the foreseeable future, and one day make the transition to the front lines of cyber defense.