Our fantastic Cyber Discovery community is what makes our programme a success! In this series of blogs, we shine a spotlight on some of the incredible talents we have seen taking part this year.
This week, Emily Shackleton, a student participating in Cyber Discovery, guest blogged about her experience of the programme so far. Emily talks about how she found out about the programme and how the skills she has learnt will help her in the future.
While I have always been interested in computers and how they work, I had never properly encountered cyber security until I entered the CyberFirst Girls’ Competition in 2017. My team-mates and I signed up at the last minute- right before the registration deadline- thinking we would enter and see how we got on. I don’t think any of us knew just how far that competition would take us, but it turned out to be a lot more than a few fun puzzles! At the final of the competition, the organisers suggested that we should apply to attend one of the CyberFirst summer courses. Given how interesting the competition had been, I thought I’d give it a try, and so in the summer of 2017, I found myself off to London for a five-day boot camp. The course gave me a better working knowledge of cyber security, as we were taught about the more fundamental workings of computers and networks, and I left feeling that the skills I had learnt were ones I wanted to develop further. It was also great fun otherwise, and I made some friends who were just as interested in computers as I was! On the very last day of the course, we were also told about a new programme, which is how I first heard about Cyber Discovery.
For me, CyberStart Assess wasn’t really too difficult, as it was very similar to challenges I’d encountered in the first round of the girls’ Competition. It was still enjoyable however, as I accessed the 14th challenge before I’d finished the first 13 (by manipulating the URL), which was like finding a hidden Easter egg.
Moving onto Game, I quickly realised that I’d be spending most of my free time doing the challenges, because they were the perfect difficulty to get a sense of satisfaction from completing them.
I found Essentials had some very good tips and tricks that did help me with some of the later stages in Game, and the different modules were excellent revision as many of them had similar content to that of my computer science A-level.
The most useful skill I developed throughout the program has to be my coding fluency. Although I have had prior experience with coding, because I study computer science at school, the programme gave me the chance to apply that experience in many contexts that I hadn’t encountered before. Working through the Moon base challenges in CyberStart Game was particularly helpful, as I could then apply some of the solutions I had written to the challenges in Headquarters (with a bit of tweaking, of course). The programme has also changed the way I tackle new cyber security problems, as I learnt new techniques for spotting vulnerabilities.
In my opinion, the highlight of the programme would definitely be CyberStart Game. Every challenge was interesting and unique, and the difficulty curve was just right to help you develop your skills as you progressed through the levels. The timespan of the round also meant that there was a good opportunity to ask others for help if you got stuck (which I think everyone did, at some point!).
At the moment, I don’t intend to pursue a career directly in cyber security, but I am certain that I want to have a job that incorporates similar skills, such as problem solving and data analysis. My current plan is to study physics at university, due to the large amount of data analysis and modelling that is done through coding. During my physics work experience this summer, my cyber security knowledge has proved useful on many occasions, even though it’s a different field of study.
You have to be able to reduce a problem to its most fundamental components, and think creatively to come up with a solution, and this is something cyber security has taught me to do.
Regarding Cyber Discovery, I’m excited to see what the beta network has to offer- I think it’ll be a great opportunity for the people involved with the programme’s first year and will hopefully make the second year even better!
I definitely think that having cyber security skills is a big advantage for anyone, especially those in my generation, simply because you can transfer your knowledge to almost any job or task. It’s very difficult to find an industry that has no involvement in computers in this day and age, and the shortage of qualified individuals means that knowing your way around a computer makes you very employable. I’d also say that cyber security programmes such as Cyber Discovery can help you indirectly, too, as completing the challenges can improve your problem solving and logical thinking- skills that are useful in all types of situation. Not to mention they can also be great fun!
Emily Shackleton, 17
If you are interested in taking part in our Cyber Discovery Spotlight series, please get in touch. We would love to hear about your experience as a student, club leader or school taking part in the programme!