RIC alum Nick Garvey, a computer science major, with minors in cybersecurity and Web design, says the first thing tech students need to do is explore the field.
Nick Garvey ’22 was hired by a cybersecurity company before the ink had dried on his diploma. A computer science major, with minors in cybersecurity and Web design, Garvey started out as a student intern for AXIOTROP, a Rhode Island-based, online company that helps its clients become cybersecurity compliant.
When Garvey’s internship ended in 2021, the company hired him part time. When he graduated in 2022, they hired him full time. Now he does cybersecurity for a living.
If you asked Garvey a year ago what he’d like to be doing in the tech sector, he’d say writing software. Ask him now and he’d say he’s open to anything cybersecurity or computer science related.
“Tech is a big field,” he says. “There’s a lot to explore.” In fact, that’s one of the first things Garvey recommends to anyone interested in going into the tech industry:
1. Explore What’s Out There
“In college, I explored by joining cybersecurity and computer science clubs. I suggest you take part in all the extracurricular activities out there. Join coding camps and vocational programs. In high school, I did the electronics vocational program that had me programming for three hours a day. At Rhode Island College, I was a teaching assistant in the GenCyber camp for junior and senior high school students for two years. I was also a computer science tutor in RIC’s Tutoring Center. There’s many ways to explore.”
2. Work on Your Own Projects
“Find something you’re interested in and make a project out of it, whether it be automating your Spotify playlist so it can organize itself or coming up with a program that answers your emails. Try anything that makes your day-to-day life easier.
“I got into programming at a young age. I was coding at 12 or 13 as a hobby. So, it’s always been a part of my life. The big thing for me back then was game design. I Googled: How do you make a video game? and I took off from there. So, I’d say, make programming a part of your life outside of school and work.”
3. Be Okay with Making Mistakes. It’s a Soft Skill.
“Programming is one of those things you’re never going to get perfect at on the first run. For me, that’s part of the fun – doing it wrong so you can do it better. You have to learn to be okay with making mistakes. You’re going to run into scenarios where you were 100 percent sure something was going to work and it didn’t. Now you have to go back and rework your logic and map it through your head again. You have to be okay with that.”
4. Work on Your Public Speaking Skills. It’s a Soft Skill, Too.
“A lot of people think programming is just sitting in front of a computer and coding all day, but it’s a lot more than that. You have to demo products for people who are going to use them. Often, you’re not going to be the only developer on a project. A lot of times you’re going to be working with a team. You have to be able to code with people. The cybersecurity work I do now calls for a lot of collaboration.”
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
“Above all, practice. Programming is like learning an instrument. You’re only going to be as good as the practice you put into it. You have to make it a routine. Some people can pick up a guitar and they’ve got that natural skill, but to be really proficient you have to do it regularly.”
For more information about RIC majors in computer science and cybersecurity, contact Associate Professor Suzanne Mello-Stark at firstname.lastname@example.org.