John Kelly’s Exhilarating Journey From Video Marketing to Cybersecurity

John Kelly began his career in professional videography. After a stint in television, he began a video marketing role for a nonprofit children’s hospital in St. Louis. There, he expertly crafted heartfelt, impactful narratives through promotional videos, commercials and event overviews to fundraise for several campaigns. As a result of his storytelling and dedication, he was able to help raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the hospital’s endeavors. 

In the back of his mind, though, John kept thinking about his passion for technology and its ability to transform lives. He was particularly interested in stories of tech security breaches, where hackers would steal private information. And, despite his dedication to videography, John wondered if he could potentially shift gears and pursue a career that helped him identify cybersecurity solutions to help people. 

“I wanted to help organizations build and solidify their security so they could properly protect people’s valuable data,” he explained. “And I saw myself wanting to create systems that counteract the efforts of those who try to do harm.” 

When he came across an opportunity to join a cybersecurity boot camp, he took the leap.

An enriching learning experience 

John enrolled in Washington University Cybersecurity Boot Camp in late 2020. Through a completely virtual, intensive eight-month program, he listened to lectures, completed various assignments and collaborated with others to learn about networks, their main functions and different layers of communication — and how all of them could be protected against potential cyber attacks. 

During one particularly memorable boot camp project, John was tasked with building a virtual network. Rising to the challenge, he learned how to set up firewalls while creating an entire server that would carefully monitor the network. With each step, he was able to dig into difficult technical concepts and gain valuable practical experience. 

Additionally, he was able to build a unique installation script to help streamline future setups. Efficient by design, his script was engineered to automatically run each individualized script and eliminate repetition for future users, helping people set up an entire system with much less manual effort.

“We didn’t have to follow a rigid guideline that led us through the same step-by-step process,” John reflected. “We were free to pave our own path and find solutions through whatever means it took — it wasn’t always a one-size-fits-all approach, which I appreciated.”

As challenging as some of the projects were, John appreciated that the boot camp didn’t just prepare him for a series of certification tests — he felt that his experience properly equipped him with the knowledge and expertise needed to truly excel in a tech career. 

“A lot of the time, you end up with a piece of paper that proves you sat through lectures. But for this boot camp, I completed multiple projects that I was proud of and could show to employers. I had hard proof that I understood how all of these systems worked, and that I knew how to defend them,” John explained. 

The value of collaboration and community

During his time as a videographer, John was accustomed to working independently and completing projects alone. However, collaboration was a must during the boot camp, and John enjoyed being part of a true professional community, 

“From new college graduates, to dog groomers, to former programmers and even former military members — we had a wide range of students coming from extremely diverse backgrounds,” he said. “We all learned valuable lessons from one another.” 

The boot camp was accessible to all, regardless of technical background, allowing students to actively learn and grow together. Instructors came from various security backgrounds as well — John found them extremely knowledgeable, as they helped foster welcoming yet rigorous learning environments that encouraged students to pursue excellence in their work. 

“Without the combined efforts of my classmates and the openness of our instructors, I would not have had the same immersive experience,” he shared. “My portfolio and LinkedIn profile would also look significantly different if not for the collaborative nature of our cohort, as well as the ongoing assistance I received.” 

Payment security for hospitals 

Currently, John works as a payment card industry (PCI) assessor for a national hospital system. He works for various locations that accept credit card payments, ensuring they are in compliance with international standards. 

“Essentially, we go to various locations that accept credit card payments and check if their systems are in compliance with international standards for companies that hold credit card data,” he explained. “We sit down and talk to people who have regularly facilitated day-to-day credit card processing.” 

Whether it’s a hospital employee, patient or even a visitor who makes a credit card purchase within the hospital building, John’s responsibility is to secure their transaction. 

Much like his boot camp peers, John’s new colleagues also encourage openness and ongoing communication. “We’re all very open about projects we’re working on, and everyone is always willing to help each other when needed,” he said. My team is proactive about having a growth mindset and always pushes me to be a continuous learner.” 

Overall, John credits his boot camp experience for his successful transition into the cybersecurity world — collaboration, networking and portfolio-building are all valuable skills that he plans to continue growing during his career journey. 

As for prospective students, he hopes that they approach the boot camp experience with unabashed enthusiasm and limitless curiosity. As a parting note, John advises, “Take every opportunity you have to immerse yourself in the technical sandbox. Get the experience of doing things that are applicable to your career path, and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.” 

Ready to make a change by pursuing a career in cybersecurity, data analytics or coding? Check out Washington University Boot Camps today.

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