Elizabeth O’Connell

Elizabeth O’Connell
Cybersecurity (CIT)

What made you decide to choose your specific major?

There are many avenues you can take with a degree in information technology. Cybersecurity appealed to me because the field was growing; there are various job options (including ones that do not necessarily require a computer), and it applies in nearly every other area. A background in cybersecurity would make me a better cyber-crime, human trafficking, and special victims’ lawyer.

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

I enjoy the application approach to many of the courses. The labs allow for a form of trial-and-error learning. Instead of mentally piecing together this abstract, theoretical puzzle, the labs enable students to piece together the concepts taught in the lecture with concrete example problems.

What has been one of your favorite class projects?

I do not know if I would call it my “favorite” project, but I was surprised with my ability when working on the Raspberry Pi project in CNIT 176. I had created a device that detected motion, turned on a camera, took pictures until the activity stopped, and saved them to a specific file. Without having taken a programming class or even knowing how code is written, I managed to write the program for this device in Python and have it work successfully by the end of the semester. Three years later, and I am still surprised I managed to create something like that.

What other activities are you involved in on campus?

I am a member of Women in Technology (WIT) and Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS). I volunteer at the ACE Campus Food Pantry, play racquetball and pickleball, and climb rocks.

What was something unique about one of your summer internships?

This past summer, I interned with a company, Project Farma (PF), going through many changes when I started. PF was preparing to merge with another company, Precision Medical Group (PMG). All PF employees work remotely and, therefore, require software for remote access to their work laptops. For most of the summer, I used the program Kaseya. Unfortunately, Kaseya was involved in a vast security attack and was “down for maintenance” for weeks. The security issue with Kaseya impacted the work IT was able to do each day as we prepared for the merge. The alternative to Kaseya that we used was not nearly as robust and significantly slowed down our productivity.

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

There is so much more to cybersecurity than just the technology or even the law. You do not have to work at a computer all day simply because your degree is in technology. Talk to professors and company representatives at career fairs or conferences; there is so much out there, and someone will be willing to help you find your place.

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

Like anything, it is going to be complicated. There will be times when you question your decision and ask yourself if you made the right choice. Sometimes, you might even consider changing majors! But, at the end of the day, if it isn’t hard, if it isn’t challenging, if you aren’t using your brain, will it be worth it? Because you do belong in that classroom. You did make the right choice. You do know what you are doing.

Have questions? Email me at oconne17@purdue.edu