Persistence and perseverance drive cybersecurity success

2020 Infosec Accelerate Scholarship winner Devin Wright paved a career in cybersecurity through sheer grit, determination and hard work. Mostly self-taught, Devin credits a company willing to take a chance on someone inexperienced and a work ethic inspired by her mother for accelerating her success. Devin’s unconventional journey into cybersecurity is a shining example for others to follow.

Persistence and perseverance drive cybersecurity success

From swim coach to cybersecurity

Growing up, Devin’s family straddled the poverty line and she watched her strong Latina mother work two jobs to provide better opportunities for Devin and her siblings. A devastating medical condition combined with an expiring scholarship cut short her college education in Russian and Eurasian studies, where she was planning a career in foreign service and intelligence. She took a job as a pool attendant and swim coach to pay her medical bills. It was a good job, but Devin felt she was in no way honoring her mother’s years-long sacrifice.

She resolved to do better. While researching in-demand jobs she came across cybersecurity and it was instantly appealing to the former political science major interested in geopolitics. Before she knew it she was devouring Krebs on Security and geeking out on the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.

“It was a delight because it’s a really good source for educating myself,” Devin says. “Chapter by chapter it provided what I needed to learn and then implement knowledge gained. This knowledge helped my ability to speak with cybersecurity pros and actually know what I was talking about. I delighted in the fact that it is free, too, and it raised my enthusiasm even higher.”

Taking a chance on inexperience

Devin says she got a lucky break when a swimming lesson client picked up on her interest in technology. He offered her an administrative assistant position at Neocova, then a financial services technology startup. She proudly claims to be the St. Louis-based company’s first employee.
“The CEO took a chance on me when no one else would,” Devin says. “Because it was a small company at the time, I was able to pitch in beyond my admin duties. He needed a jack of all trades, so with my interest in cryptology and algorithms, he put me in charge of automation in our cloud platform. He specifically asked me to learn how to do a LAMP Stack. Besides the three Neocova founders, I was the only person there, so I educated myself and got to work.”

As a woman of color, I aim to clear space at the table for other minorities,” Devin says. ‘I want to help transform the presence of women and brown people in cybersecurity from an exception to the norm.

Jumping at every opportunity to build acumen

As the company grew, it didn’t take long for Devin to — in her words — “pester” leadership into moving her to the information security department where she has since become an associate cybersecurity analyst. Over the past year she helped prepare for a formal SOC attestation, established a security awareness program and helped build Neocova’s security infrastructure
from the ground up.

“In addition to security education and training, I help with onboarding new employees to safely access corporate electronic resources. I do a lot of threat analysis by pulling sources from InfoGard and Recorded Future, among others,” said Devin. “I also help with communications, solution papers and some of our policies. It’s an amazing place and I’m grateful to be here.”

In tenacious pursuit of her next goals

Devin’s next goal is to work toward becoming a cyber threat intelligence analyst. Winning an Infosec Accelerate Scholarship gives her lifetime access to Infosec Skills, where she’ll sharpen fundamental cybersecurity skills to identify vulnerabilities, threat actors and different attack methods. She’s thankful for the opportunities now open to her through the scholarship.

“As a woman of color, I aim to clear space at the table for other minorities,” Devin says. ‘I want to help transform the presence of women and brown people in cybersecurity from an exception to the norm. I am determined to meet my goals. Cybersecurity is not merely a means of protecting organizations and data, but also a crucial part of protecting people. I've worked to get my foot in the door and plan on doing just that. I am ready to dive in.”