Northern Michigan University alumnus William Provost ('20 BS, '13 MA, '10 BS) recently became the first to complete a course and certification offered through NMU's Upper Peninsula Cybersecurity Institute (UPCI), which opened on campus in May 2019.
The UPCI is the only facilty of its kind in the Upper Peninsula, and one of six statewide. It offers non-degree and industry credentials relevant to emerging careers, augments NMU's existing cyber defense bachelor's degree and provides career exploration and training opportunities for K-12 school districts.
“As a cybersecurity professional, earning the Cisco Certified Network Associate represents a commitment to understanding the complex relationship between networking and security,” said Provost. “This is more important now than ever as many enterprise networks are essentially expanding outside of the business and into the home due to remote workers.
“I plan on pursuing more certifications with the UPCI in the future, and I have been working closely with Doug Miller, director of the UPCI, to discuss the real-world benefits I've seen from the CCNA and other industry certifications I have earned. The goal is to build a curriculum that can really help students get an edge up as they look to enter the workforce.”
In addition to enrolling in certification courses to expand his professional credentials, Provost is helping the UPCI create a course on technical writing and communication for those working in the information technology/cybersecurity field.
“The course will focus on helping to build the soft skills needed to succeed in the field, including my take on how the shift to virtual and remote environments has impacted this topic.”
Provost is also working with NMU Continuing Education and Workforce Development on creating a version of the same course for a general student population not working in the field.
After previously earning bachelor's and master's degrees in English, Provost added a bachelor's degree in information assurance/cyber defense in 2020. While at NMU, he was active in the Student Cybersecurity Association, such as volunteering to help mentor high school students who went to the state finals for the Governor's Cybersecurity Challenge. He was one of the first people to deliver a training in the UPCI, teaching high schoolers about the cybersecurity topic of password hashing and cracking.
“For my cybersecurity degree, I was a non-traditional student. I am in my 30s and have two children at home. My career change was motivated by an intense interest in the field and a desire to enter a profession with more opportunities. I also wanted to stay in the area and have more flexibility in my career, as I wanted to prioritize my family.”
Provost works locally as a cybersecurity analyst at mBank in Marquette. He began working there in January 2020 on the first day of his final semester as a full-time student at NMU.
“For the first three to four months of my new job, I was juggling both school and work, and I was working remotely as needed—even before the pandemic—to make up the time. When the pandemic hit, my work went 100% remote. I was a critical part in both helping secure mBank's systems in the new work-at-home environment and helping employees get set up to work from home. During this time, I also continued pursuing industry certifications.”
Provost has earned 10 certifications in the past 12 months, including the CompTIA CySA+, EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker, (ISC)² Systems Security Certified Practitioner and Microsoft 365 Certified: Security Administrator Associate.
“With all of that on top of being a parent, wrapping up my degree at NMU, starting my job at mBank and navigating a pandemic, it certainly has been a hectic year to say the least. But, I feel that a commitment to continuing to grow and learn is essential in this field. To me, each certification reflects an area of technical knowledge that helps me bring more value to my employer.”
Provost is currently pursuing a master's degree in information security and intelligence, with an emphasis on incident response, at Ferris State University.
“I am most proud that, during all of this, my effort resulted in a stable, remote-capable job in Marquette and, thus, the ability to keep my children home during the pandemic while my wife and I continued to work. Having the ability to be home together during these unprecedented times has been the greatest reward by far.”
Find more information on the UPCI and its programs here.