If It’s Not Broken…break It!
According to Zachary Singleton (B.S. ’20), you need to be ready to take things apart in order to learn how to make them. As a high school student, he started dismantling and rebuilding computers, pushing his knowledge and hacking skills as far as they could go. “My advice to people who want to get into cybersecurity is break things, and then break even more things,” he says. “You learn a lot from figuring out why it broke than why it didn’t break.”
This philosophy seems to be serving Singleton well: He is a recipient of the prestigious Department of Defense (DoD) Cyber Scholarship. The scholarship is part of the DoD’s student recruitment program, which is aimed at generating the next generation of national security professionals. In exchange for a full scholarship, he will perform a service obligation with the DoD as a civilian employee. Singleton was already prepared to serve his country, having committed to the Air Force upon graduation in May 2021.
Singleton credits his success, at least in part, to his time at New York Institute of Technology. He came to the university from Suffolk Community College and received a bachelor’s in information technology in 2020. He felt so at home at New York Tech he decided to stay to pursue a master’s in cybersecurity.
“The number of resources at a student’s disposal to test and learn just about anything technology related, especially cybersecurity, is astonishing,” he says. “My first day of classes [as an undergraduate], I toured the Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation Center (ETIC). Once I entered the lab, I knew New York Tech was my home. I still spend most of my time there. If not there, you will likely find me at the nearest local coffee shop on my eighth cup of coffee doing a hackathon.”
Singleton is currently working alongside Mike Nizich, Ph.D., director of the ETIC, on developing remote programs for the ongoing research projects taking place there. He believes staying active and engaged is key to keeping up in the field. “Cybersecurity is a field that changes every minute—if you compare the field today versus five years ago, the landscape is completely different,” he says. “When it comes time for me to pass the torch, I probably won’t even recognize it.”