Cybersecurity is a family affair for this scholarship winner

To label 2020 Infosec Accelerate scholarship recipient Annabelle Klosterman a high achiever might be an understatement. This South Dakota native graduated from high school this year and is starting at Dakota State University as a sophomore due to already earned credits. The cyber operations major and part-time information systems assistant expects to finish her undergraduate degree in 2 ½ years and racked up 2,000 hours volunteering and mentoring during high school.

Cybersecurity is a family affair for this scholarship winner

Excited about the industry’s career possibilities

“I aspire to be a leader in cybersecurity and want to empower others to have an impact on the safety of our country,” says Annabelle. “With the constant change in technology, it can be challenging to keep up with each new development. But the need for cybersecurity practitioners won’t go away. My dream job is to be in a position that changes the way people view and handle security — for their protection and the benefit of everyone.”

Interest in cybersecurity came naturally to Annabelle. Her father is a long-time information security manager and her older brothers are also in the field. Growing up, she was attracted to the different skills needed and the ever-evolving challenges.

In cybersecurity the technology's changing every day. I’m motivated by confronting fresh challenges. That's why I want to be in this field. Going to work and doing the same thing day in and day out would be hard for me.

Launching her career with the help of Infosec Skills

Annabelle is one of 12 recipients of the 2020 Infosec Accelerate Scholarship Program. Established in 2018 to encourage new talent to join the cybersecurity industry and close the growing skills gap, the program awards lifetime access to Infosec Skills to help recipients launch and advance cybersecurity careers. 

She says receiving the scholarship will help her achieve her career goals of impacting youth, improving companies and better ensuring the safety of our country. 

“As a female in the male-dominated cybersecurity profession, I will be challenged to demonstrate the skills, expertise and experience required to be a valuable resource,” says Annabelle. “I welcome the challenge. I know I have what it takes not only to participate, but to become a leader.”

Growing her cybersecurity experience early

Annabelle encourages others considering a cybersecurity career to take advantage of the growing number of opportunities available to both middle school and high school students. She points to successful programs drawing girls into STEM and technology courses. Cyber competitions and cyber practices also provide valuable learning and opportunities to mingle with top security practitioners. Earning a spot on her Civil Air Patrol's CyberPatriot national competition team two years in a row is one of her proudest achievements.

Regularly reading industry articles helps Annabelle stay on top of the latest threats and defensive tactics, but she puts a lot of effort into talking with cybersecurity professionals whenever she can. She says it’s the next best thing to actual hands-on experience. 

Annabelle's current interests lean toward the defensive side of cybersecurity, like a security analyst role, but for now she’s focused on developing a solid knowledge base and technical skills. She aspires to earn her CISSP after graduation and eventually get into security management and leadership — becoming a chief information security officer.

Ongoing skill development to stay ahead

“Since cybersecurity is changing every day, to succeed you have to constantly be on top of your game,” says Annabelle. “You have to always be learning new tactics and staying ahead of the latest threats. If you started in the industry 10 years ago and haven’t invested in staying current, things are going to be dramatically different than a decade ago. Or maybe only six months ago. If you're not staying on top of the latest threat or hack, then you're going to fall behind."

"It's the constant challenges of this industry that inspire me so much."