“The Boot Camp Changed My Life”: How Vinny Barone Went From Fitness to Cybersecurity
For a long time, cybersecurity was the last thing on Vinny Barone’s mind. A graduate in health promotion and fitness from American University, he quickly moved into the obvious career — working at a corporate health and fitness consulting company in Washington, D.C.
Not the ideal first step for a job in tech, you might imagine. But Vinny was lucky. Overseeing government health and fitness contracts, he soon got to know some of his clients at FBI headquarters. “They worked in the building, in cybersecurity,” said Vinny. “I got a glimpse of what their days were like. They started to explain the process of what they did for work.”
Ultimately, these chance encounters fueled Vinny’s desire to do something new with his career — so he signed up for GW Cybersecurity Boot Camp.
“We all just wanted to better our careers”
Apart from having informal chats with friends in the FBI, Vinny was totally new to cybersecurity — which initially caused him some worry. “‘What have I gotten myself into?’” he remembered thinking. “Don’t get me wrong, it was all extremely interesting — but also difficult.”
From squashing bugs to spotting malware, Vinny spent the first few weeks of the boot camp battling a serious case of imposter syndrome. But before long, he realized that everyone else was in the same boat. “Seventy-five percent of the class was just like me,” he said, “we all just wanted to better our careers.”
This sense of camaraderie would prove to be one of the most fulfilling aspects of the whole boot camp. Working with colleagues in class, then organizing projects via Zoom once the pandemic hit, Vinny said that “you never had the option to feel like you were alone.”
With a little help from his new friends, Vinny became a cybersecurity wiz, as proficient in Terminal (a digital workspace for engineers) as he was in strengthening his passwords.
Constant support during and after the boot camp
Great teachers were another piece of the puzzle. Not only did Vinny’s professors explain difficult cybersecurity topics clearly and engagingly — they were also available to help at any time. “I worked with one TA, and we had a really great relationship,” he said.
“She was always open to any question I had, no matter how small or how large. I remember I asked her a question late on a Sunday, when obviously we weren’t in class or anything — and she was great at replying.”
At the same time, Vinny felt supported once he’d finished the boot camp. After being assigned a personal career advisor, he was in touch with them every few weeks, getting help on everything from job tips to sharpening his resume.
It’s no wonder that Vinny soon landed a job in tech. Described by Vinny as “Excel on steroids,” Decision Lens is a software company that makes it easy to organize budgets and portfolios. In an ironic throwback to his earlier career, Vinny says he mainly works on government contracts — but it’s what he learned in the boot camp that’s really proven useful.
“I do a lot of work for our cybersecurity,” he explained. “I work as our admin for Webroot, which is a malware analysis scanner. For example, if one of my coworkers encounters a threat, I’ll work on the admin dashboard to figure out which type of threat it is — and what can be done to stop it.”
It goes without saying, adds Vinny, that he wouldn’t have had “any idea” about these risks without the cybersecurity boot camp. Even so, it’s a testament to the breadth of his experiences that Vinny has also begun working in other corners of tech. “I actually have my hand in a little bit of everything at Decision Lens,” he explained.
In practice, that covers everything from investigating bugs to assisting clients at the helpdesk. Given all that he’s achieving now, it’s not surprising that Vinny recommends the boot camp to anyone who will listen.
“Not to sound overdramatic, but the boot camp changed my life,” he said. “I was essentially working at a job where I did not see room for growth. That inspired the realization that maybe I should continue my education — which brought me to the boot camp.”
Today, he looks back on the entire experience with gratitude. “It essentially put me in a place where I love what I do — on the technical side and every other side. And it gave me the opportunity to grow in the IT field, not only in cybersecurity.”
Want to kickstart a new career? Check out GW Boot Camps in coding, data analytics, cybersecurity, UX/UI, fintech, and digital marketing.