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Working as a student worker on Grand Canyon University’s IT Help Desk just might get you a job at Tesla.
It did for Ethan Anderson.
The cybersecurity major, who walked the Commencement stage at 9 a.m. today in GCU Arena, credits his experience as a student worker for IT Tech Support and the IT Help Desk with preparing him for industry jobs.
“I basically went from the IT Help Desk to the first internship with Best Western as an information security analyst. … The IT Help Desk, because it’s entry level, beginner IT experience – actual work experience – that helped a lot with that first internship,” said Anderson, who’s from Washington state.
Anderson didn’t know what he wanted to major in at first, but when he decided, the only university that offered that major – cybersecurity – was GCU. It’s what sold him on making the move from Washington to Arizona.
“I’ve always just been interested in computers and technology. I guess I’ve spent most of my life doing something with computers and just toying with them and learning on my own,” he said.
Like a lot of people who go into the technology field, Anderson started out loving video games, but that interest grew into taking apart and building computers.
“Cybersecurity sounded really interesting, so either protecting companies from hackers or acting as if you were a hacker. It just sounded really cool.”
Anderson started as an on-ground student, then after a year and a half, switched to online in spring 2022.
He got connected to Best Western, one of the industry partners the University works with, through GCU’s Career Connections.
“I really appreciated having that connection because internships in cybersecurity are very, very competitive. GCU having that relationship was really helpful,” Anderson said.
Best Western, which he worked for remotely, was a good place for him to gain experience in the field because it exposed him to everything an information security analyst does. He monitored the internal corporate network, public-facing websites and apps for security threats.
“All of my IT and cybersecurity classes at GCU helped prepare me for this role, but especially classes involving hands-on labs,” he said, in which he learned skills such as analyzing malware behavior and reading logs in a cloud platform called Splunk.
Anderson didn’t wait to apply for his next internship. He saw an opening at Tesla on LinkedIn and applied.
“Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to get the job, but I did apply within the first 5 minutes of the job being posted,” he said with a laugh, though he thinks it may have helped. “But then I kind of forgot about it, and I wasn’t expecting to hear back, because usually when I have a job that I find I really, really want, I will contact every recruiter I can find. I try to find the hiring manager and send them a message.”
He didn’t do that with Tesla, but despite the unintended hands-off approach, the stars aligned and he got an internship offer. He worked on ground in Fremont, California, while continuing to complete his GCU courses remotely.
Anderson’s internship with the company ended this week, but he was offered a full-time position as a security intelligence engineer.
His job for Tesla is a little different from what he did at Best Western, in which he protected the company from hackers.
“My team is actually more focused on insider threats,” he said, so finding malicious actors in the company that might try to steal confidential information or its intellectual property.
He creates detections to find that malicious activity and automates responses to those detections.
What he thinks secured him the job at Tesla, beyond his student worker and internship experiences, is that the Technology Department’s professors in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology push students to acquire entry-level certifications.
“And a lot of GCU cybersecurity classes have the same material or content that’s in those certifications.”
Anderson got his certification in CompTIA Security +, an entry-level cybersecurity certification.
“A lot of the things they asked me in the interview was around what are the hands-on projects I’ve done or what are the specific tools or technologies I know and what have I done with them. GCU has classes in their cybersecurity program that are hands-on labs and actually use these tools that the companies desire, so those classes were especially helpful.”
He also credits GCU professors Dr. Dwight Farris and Deborah Haralson for sharing their knowledge of the industry and getting him involved in big IT events, such as the big Black Hat cybersecurity conference.
“Ethan is driven, engaging and curious to impact everyone around him, which are the main reasons why many companies were interested,” said Farris. “Tesla is fortunate to have acquired him.”
Manager of Internal Communications Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.
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