My little brother is studying plant sciences in Wageningen. He learns about the importance of insects, the genetics of tomatoes and the financials of carrots. One birthday my uncle asked him: ‘Are you going to work with computers, like your father?’ This question might sound very weird to outsiders. If your studying plants and nature, how would you than ever find work in the IT sector? Our father has studied agriculture in Wageningen and yet he has become a security analyst and he is working with computers all day long. He does not even work for a business in agriculture, but for a bank. He is very happy with his job and he has fun in it. He might not have taken the shortest road to that job, however, he did enjoy the journey and he has reached his dream job. In this blog I will describe this journey of my father to show you that you can become whatever you want.
Question 1: What is your job?
My father doesn’t give me an answer straight away. He asks me the following instead: “Do you want the easy answer or the difficult one?” The difficult answer is “threat hunter”. What that means, I don’t know. So, I’ll ask for the easy answer. “Security analyst”. As child I never understood much of what my father was doing for work. When someone asked me, I answered something like: “He is working with computers”. (But is not everyone doing that nowadays?!) The last couple of years I have come to know a lot more about my father’s job. Also this blog gave me a fantastic excuse to ask some questions. His job is to make sure the website is working, that false websites are detected and that data is stored safely. He is looking for cyber threats, which is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. You keep searching and searching and searching for something you don’t even know of whether it does exist or not. Sometimes you find a threat and sometimes you don’t. When you find something you have to level up your defense; you’re not allowed to attack your attacker. According to my father, the best part of his job is that it is like solving a puzzle.
Question 2: Did you always wanted to become a threat hunter?
The short answer is: “No”. The long answer is: “The job did not even exist when I started studying. It only exists only since about 10 years.” Before being a threat hunter my father has worked as a security analyst and also for a while as a security engineer. This was not the answer I was anticipating for. When I remark that computers did already exist when my father started his study and when I ask him whether he had always wanted to work with computers, he answers that that question is like asking a carpenter whether he would always have wanted to work with a hammer. A computer is just a tool. In the meantime, my brothers starts joking that computers already existed in Ancient Times. This reminds me of one of the first lectures of the course Digital Media, Society, and Culture. The early computers were calculators. They were used to solve mathematical problems. Now I still didn’t get the answer I was looking for. I guess my father just never thought about the possibility of working in the IT sector till later in his study, because the sector was very small back then. Besides, his whole family works in the agriculture sector. So, that was the world he knew best.
Question 3: How did you end up in the IT sector?
The digital world changes very quickly. Some jobs end to exist, while other jobs sprout up. I already mentioned that my father studied agriculture in Wageningen and that at that time the job threat hunter did not even exist. So, he never could have thought that he would become a threat hunter after his study. He learned to build databases for a course about plant taxonomy. Later he learned to program when he had to create models. I guess they were about plants, since he learned to program at university. So, during his study the computer was really just a tool in research about agriculture. While studying his side job was to build websites for companies. After completing his study at Wageningen he applied for a job at a bank. His knowledge of agriculture was absolutely not relevant at all for this job, but his programming skills definitely were. He keeps improving those by following courses. He has to, because hackers always find new ways to hack. So, security analysts will always have to find new ways to defend data. After his study he never had to work with plants anymore, though, gardening is still one of his hobbies.
In conclusion, I think this story shows that you can become whatever you want. Choose your study based on what you think is interesting. Knowledge can be very important, but skills are too. You don’t have to know yet what your dream job is. Maybe your future job does not even exist yet, but you’ll find your way there. I study Dutch language and literature. Everyone always asks me whether I want to become a teacher, but there is so much more possible. My little brother just started his university career in Wageningen. He does not know yet what he will become. Maybe he’ll find his dream job in the IT sector or maybe somewhere else. He has still a lot of time to find out. Do you already know what you want to become?