Striving to make cybersecurity accessible to all

Passionate, dedicated and generous are just a few words to describe Alshlon Banks, a 2020 Infosec Accelerate Scholarship winner who gives as much to the field as he does to his community. This aspiring cyber pro spent the last 20 years as a child protective services investigator. He’s now looking to channel his passion for tech into a fulfilling career that will allow him to educate others.

From reactive defender to proactive protector

When Alshlon went to college, he wasn’t really sure which path to take. Torn between his passion for computers and his fascination with psychology, Alshlon chose to pursue a degree in child psych. Tinkering with tech, he decided, he could still do on the side.

Shortly after graduation, Alshlon landed his current job with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families where he investigates allegations of abuse, rescues children from unhealthy environments and connects families to the resources they need to better their lives.

While helping children is rewarding, it also requires Alshlon to handle a lot of sensitive personal information, which could be stolen or exposed in the event of a data breach. After witnessing the ways these compromises can permanently damage families, Alshlon knew he wanted to defend the vulnerable from a different kind of threat. “Many people only think about the threat of danger from a person or group of people they can see,” he says, “but I feel threats from those you can’t see are even more dangerous and should be taken very seriously.”

Alshlon Banks

Many people only think about the threat of danger from a person or group of people they can see, but I feel threats from those you can’t see are even more dangerous and should be taken very seriously.

With a renewed sense of purpose, Alshlon set off to pursue a Masters in Information Systems, and soon after starting his program, he fell in love with cybersecurity. “It just clicked. I knew this was it for me. This is what I need to be. This is what I want to do.”

Dreams of red teaming

After earning his degree, Alshlon set his sights on a career in red teaming. But even after he secures his dream role in penetration testing and threat hunting, he still won’t be satisfied. “I want to be one of the best in my field, an expert. That is my goal.” And with his energy, knowledge and focus, it’s only a matter of time until he gets there.

While he works on completing certifications and acquiring the professional experience needed for his dream job, Ashlon will continue to do what he does best: educating others.

Making cybersecurity accessible to all

When Alshlon isn’t teaching himself something or protecting at-risk children, he’s advocating for diverse representation in cybersecurity. “Unfortunately, I do not see a lot of us represented in this field,” he admits. “But there are bright minds waiting to flourish. All they need is someone to put them on the right track and show them the way.”

As an ambassador for Blacks in Cybersecurity, a meetup group and conference series with chapters around the world, Alshlon gives advice, guidance and feedback to kids who don’t have access to a lot of educational resources. “I take pride in this appointment because it has given me the ability to attract other minorities and share the valuable information I have, which will help them be successful.”

Additionally, Alshlon is helping to develop an educational program that will provide mentorship and professional services to high school students in inner city schools. This new program, he hopes, will help kids realize that they have a lot to contribute to the field: their valuable knowledge and talent, as well as their new ideas and outlooks.

The secrets to cybersecurity success

While Alshlon masters new skills and increases his own knowledge using his Infosec Skills lifetime susbscription, he offers this advice to aspiring cybersecurity professionals:

  • Learn as much as you can. “Don’t come off as the smartest person in the room,” Alshlon says. “A lot can be said about the people who just kind of sit back and absorb information from the different resources that come to you.”
  • Never stop networking. Connecting with professionals isn’t just about widening your social circle — it’s
    also a valuable learning opportunity. “Always glean information from people,” Alshlon suggests. “It’s an easy way to learn more about the field from professionals with varying degrees of experience.”
  • Sharpen your soft skills. In a world full of technical jargon, effective communication is the key to connecting with everyone. “You have to make sure your soft skills are in a place where you’re able to communicate with those that aren’t necessarily as technical as yourself.”
  • Always give back. “If you’re blessed enough to get an opportunity, give back what you can. Only good will come to you when you do things like that.”

Infosec Accelerate Scholarship Program

The Infosec Accelerate Scholarship Program was established in 2018 to encourage new talent to join our industry and close the growing cybersecurity skills gap. Each year, 12 scholarship recipients receive lifetime access to Infosec Skills to help them build the skills needed to launch and advance their cybersecurity careers.