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For some, working in security comes naturally

Apr 01, 20164 mins
CareersIT LeadershipSecurity

Growing up the child of a software engineer is one way to get on the path toward a career in IT and security

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Credit: Thinkstock

Perhaps you recall the jingle from the Maybelline commercial, “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline.” Well, maybe it’s a little bit of both. 

Some folks are just born to excel in certain fields. Their natural interests and learned behaviors shape who they become. Certainly Delali Dzirasa, president of Fearless, possessed a natural affinity for learning, especially when it came to anything technical.

“I’ve always been interested in computers. My dad was a software engineer, so I learned from him and took to it pretty fast,” Dzirasa said. Few would be surprised to hear that he went on to study computer engineering in college. “Maybe it was laziness,” Dzirasa joked, “but any time I did something more than once, I found a way to automate it. Even though I studied computer engineering, I was a lot more interested in the software side.”

In college he started working in an entrepreneurship program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. As a side note, Dzirasa added that UMBC was not his first choice school, mainly because he is the youngest of three boys and he didn’t want to follow in his brother’s footsteps. Alas, his mother convinced him that UMBC was the school for him. As it turns out, mothers always know best.

He interned at both the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE) and John Hopkins APL while in college, where he gained experience in several departments, including the space department there.

What followed was a world of opportunities that opened up to him through the connections he made. Networking proved to be one of the influences that guided his career. On recommendation, he sought out an opportunity working with a fellow alum that owned a software security firm. His accomplishments even earned him the award of “Outstanding Alumni of the Year.”

“It was a great chance for me to learn on the job. I learned about not only leadership and entrepreneur skills but also cutting edge technology. I worked in the Department of Defense space and developed my skills in the security base there.

The itch for business wouldn’t go away, though. “A lot of what I do today is because of the opportunities I got there,” said Dzirasa who started his company Fearless in February of 2009.

“We like to create presentations. We do software presentation and software performance. We help with the issues everyone is facing today: big data, cloud computing, data analytics. A lot of our work today is based in the security world. Despite the customer set, everyone has the same problems,” Dzirasa said.

Dzirasa became involved with LifeJourney through his connection with CEO, Rick Geritz. “I’ve known him for a number of years, and I’ve done a lot of work in STEM-based education. Becoming a mentor seemed like a natural fit. I had also been a mentor protégé with the Department of Defense, so coupling with LifeJourney just made sense,” he said.

The online platform continues to grow and work on trying to scale up how they reach more mentors, so readers who are even remotely interested in a career in security should take a peek.

“In general, there is something to be said during mentoring. When you see someone struggling with how to solve a problem and then see the light bulb go off,” said Dzirasa. I know that feeling. It’s what I miss most about being in the classroom. “I had a lot of people that mentored me, who helped the light bulb turn on,” he said.

“We are excited about LifeJourney in general. One person being able to mentor thousands or millions giving them access to a platform where they can test drive life is a great advantage,” said Dzirasa.

His advice to those who are new to the industry or considering entering into the field, “Stay hungry. There is no shortage of opportunities. Keep learning. Security is one of those interesting things. There are a million ways to get in, and you can’t defend all of them,” Dzirasa said. 

What you can do, is stay ahead, so go ahead and get in the game.


Kacy Zurkus is a freelance writer for CSO and has contributed to several other publications including The Parallax, and K12 Tech Decisions. She covers a variety of security and risk topics as well as technology in education, privacy and dating. She has also self-published a memoir, Finding My Way Home: A Memoir about Life, Love, and Family under the pseudonym "C.K. O'Neil."

Zurkus has nearly 20 years experience as a high school teacher on English and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University (2011). She earned a Master's in Education from University of Massachusetts (1999) and a BA in English from Regis College (1996). Recently, The University of Southern California invited Zurkus to give a guest lecture on social engineering.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Kacy Zurkus and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.

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