Avery O’Neill

Avery O’Neill
Cybersecurity (CIT)

What made you decide to choose your specific major?

Ever since I was very young, I have been fascinated with technology. As I grew up, I watched technology become more advanced. I have known since early in my high school years that I was interested in technology and coding, but I was also interested in criminology. I wasn’t aware that the cybersecurity field existed until I applied to Purdue. When I saw this field of study, I knew that it was 100% the route that I should follow. The fact that there are so many areas of work within cybersecurity also interested me because I knew I could apply my major to several areas.

What are a couple of your favorite things about your program of study?

There are many things that I love about cybersecurity. As I mentioned before, cybersecurity can be used in many different areas of work. The variety of classes that we get the opportunity to take (such as CNIT 182, CNIT 270, CNIT 155, CNIT 323, and CNIT 371) allow us to be fully prepared for any cybersecurity field we may go into. I also really appreciate how hands-on or hands-off the field can be. It truly has something for everyone no matter what their interests in technology are or their strengths.

What has been one of your favorite class projects?

So far, my favorite class project has been the Network Ad-Blocker and VPN that I created with a group in CNIT 176. We were able to accomplish this by using a Raspberry Pi 4 and using the OpenVPN software. I really enjoyed this because it was unlike anything I had ever done before and allowed me to think outside of the box.

What other activities are you involved in on campus?

I am involved in many activities on campus, both relevant to my major and for fun. For clubs relevant to my major, I am involved in Women in Cybersecurity, Women in Technology (where I am on the Events and Outreach Committee), and Cyber Forensics. As an out-of-state student in a male- dominated field, I wanted a way to meet women who were like me and who also had similar values. Because of this, I decided to try Greek Life where I am in the sorority Alpha Omicron Pi, and I serve as the Awards Coordinator. All these activities have allowed me to grow in my leadership skills and meet new people, which is one of the reasons I love Purdue!

What do you know about your program of study now that you wish someone had told you when you were choosing a major?

One thing I wish someone would have told me when I was picking my major was that it is okay if you do not know what you are doing at the beginning. For example, before I came to college, I had zero knowledge in Linux. At first, it definitely overwhelmed me because it was unlike anything I had ever worked with before. Now, I am starting to get the hang of it after using it a couple of times in some of my classes. You will be okay even if it doesn’t seem to be the case in the beginning.

What would be one piece of advice for prospective students or new Purdue students?

My number one piece of advice, especially during your first few weeks, is to not be afraid to try new things and step out of your comfort zone. During Boiler Gold Rush (Purdue’s freshmen orientation program), the different colleges on campus host a meet your college event. I almost didn’t end up going but I am so thankful that I went. I ended up meeting some of my best friends in my major because of this event and I know many other people who did the same.

Have questions? Email me at oneill71@purdue.edu