You can’t say Courtney Beard lacks perseverance. After a challenging job search, she joined the Warrior to Cyber Warrior program, a 6-month cyber security program that prepares veterans for the CompTIA Security + certification and helps them develop soft skills with a mentor's help.
While deployed in Iraq, the Intelligence Analyst with the U.S. Air Force became the first female airman to complete the 18-hour Army Cavalry Spur Ride, a grueling series of mental and physical tests.
But upon returning from her deployment, she still found it a challenge to earn a job that best aligned with her future goals.
“I thought that as a veteran with a top-secret clearance, finding a job would not be too hard,” Courtney says. “But it was a lot more challenging than I thought it would be.”
Courtney is one of the approximately 1 million armed forces personnel who will transition to civilian life between 2011 and 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
She was accepted to the inaugural class of the Warrior to Cyber Warrior program, a 6-month cyber security program that prepares veterans for the CompTIA Security + certification and helps them with improving their résumés and practicing interviewing techniques and best practices, while each assigned with their own mentor.
In the military “we have our own language and acronyms, and civilian companies have their own language as well,” Courtney says. “They helped alter my résumé so someone who didn’t have that military background would be able to understand my accomplishments.”
And Courtney’s accomplishments were many. She has been recognized by the military with nearly 10 awards, including Outstanding Airman of the Year for New Jersey and U.S. Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year.
She excelled in Warrior to Cyber Warrior, and the executive vice president of the program recommended her for a job at Cisco. In October 2012 she was hired for a new team being built at Cisco’s Research Triangle Park campus in North Carolina to provide support for customers in the public sector.
Of technology, Courtney says, “I have always had a knack for that field.” She says that while the “Air Force Courtney” worked in intelligence, the “civilian Courtney” is focused on IT.
Jonathan Nichols, Program Manager, Cisco Global Services Practice, has been so impressed with the qualities Courtney and veterans like her possess, that he has hired 12 veterans for the team. “They are disciplined, motivated, and have practical experience,” he says.
Courtney brings the hard work and perseverance she displayed in the military to her job at Cisco. The new hires on her team must follow an aggressive training and certification schedule, and Courtney has already earned her Cisco CCNA and CCNP Firewall certifications, and is working toward more. She is also working toward a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey.
“I have been told ‘military blood runs through your veins’ and I couldn’t agree any more,” Courtney says. “I do enjoy Cisco’s flexibility and support; which makes it easier to continue serving in the Air Force.”
Courtney believes the technology field holds many opportunities for veterans like her. “IT is a great field to be in. There are many jobs open now and I think the amount of IT jobs will going to continue to grow over time,” she says. “IT skills are challenging to acquire, but they are very valuable to have in the long run.”