Welcome to the first post in N2K’s Instructor Spotlight Series. In this series, we share interviews with our certified instructors who write our practice tests and teach our courses to current and aspiring practitioners. In this episode, we connect with Troy McMillan, practice test and textbook author, and Live Online CISSP and Security+ Instructor with us at N2K. The following interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
N2K: Rumor has it that you have a few different job roles and responsibilities. Please tell us about what you do.
Troy McMillan: Well, I work a number of different positions. My main and full-time position at Kaplan IT as the Content Manager for Cisco, VMware, and several security certifications. My day-to-day responsibilities are to write practice tests and study guides for our customers who are studying for IT certifications, like the CISSP, Security+, and other assessments such as Cisco and VMware exams. But, I also do a lot of things outside of that. I teach for N2K as a CISSP training instructor and will be teaching a few classes for Security+ in the near future.
I also write books. I’ve written at least 8 or 10 books, which are mostly study guides and review guides for cybersecurity practitioners who are looking to attain their certifications. Lastly and oddly enough, I have one other part of my life—I’m a musician. I try to stay pretty busy.
Troy as the frontman in a recent performance with his band.
CV: What is the inspiration behind your writing?
TM: Simply put, I enjoy teaching and writing, so the inspiration for my books on cybersecurity stemmed from that. I’ve always enjoyed writing and started off by writing music. After I was a training and educator for Kaplan for many years, and I realized I had a knack for writing, especially as a way to share my different perspectives on how to explain a topic or an idea. I don’t have an IT or computer science background, so at one point, I made a major career change. I really understand and empathize the wave of emotions people are thinking and going through when they’re starting to study something that is foreign to them. That’s where I think my inspiration comes from – helping others draw connections and making the material easier to understand a new field of study or discipline.
CV: How did you get interested in cybersecurity?
TM: I started out teaching Microsoft and then that led to Cisco. Since so many cybersecurity issues became publicly known and there was a real push to encourage people to learn about information security. There were lots of security classes and high demand for cybersecurity writing. So, I was attracted by the job availability and the easy access to cybersecurity education.
CV: There is an enormous workforce shortage in this industry – expected to be 1.8 million strong by 2022. Do you enjoy teaching because you’re helping to shrink the gap?
TM: Well, I’ve always loved teaching and even though it doesn’t necessarily offer an extremely generous salary, it has so many satisfying moments. For example, when I’m explaining a concept to a student and he or she is having a hard time understanding, but suddenly you see that light go off and he or she finally gets it. That’s what really drives teachers.
CV: As an instructor from our Live Online classroom, what’s it like to teach behind the light board?
TM: This isn’t the first online training I’ve done so that being said, it’s much more interactive than I thought it was going to be. I was surprised by the level of engagement. I’ve had some incredibly interactive classes even though I’m teaching online. The light board technology makes it so much easier to connect with students. This is much better than the one-sided alternative, which is usually a voice-over PowerPoint. The best part for me is that I never get the feeling that I’m alone in the room.
CV: What is your favorite domain to teach?
TM: Network and Secure Communications [CISSP, Domain 4] is my favorite domain to teach. Networking is my background and I always get excited when it’s time to teach that domain.
CV: What do you like to do for fun outside work that people probably wouldn’t assume you do, since you’re a cybersecurity professional?
TM: There are many stigmas and stereotypes about the cybersecurity community. You might have heard that cyber is a bunch of nerds with pasty white skin, who don’t exercise, who don’t spend any time outside, drink Mountain Dew, and eat candy bars. I’m a cybersecurity professional and I don’t mirror that description at all. As I mentioned before I have an affinity for music and I’m also a competitive runner.
Music was my first career. I started playing music at an early age and by the time I was a teenager I was making records and playing in bands of some notoriety. I played professionally in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and a bit of the 1990s. I didn’t go to college immediately after high school because I didn’t want to stop the momentum I had mustered as a professional musician. Eventually, I did return to college, but it was not related to computer science. What’s great about cybersecurity, is that it’s an industry that doesn’t require a specific field of study. I received my degree in Business Administration and Management.
CV: What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone just starting out in cybersecurity?
TM: Actually, I’ll give you three pieces of advice. First, start your studies at an appropriate level of your current understanding. If you need help, talk with a technical education professional and take an assessment to determine where to start. Don’t get in over your head to start. You will get discouraged and quit. Secondly, when the time comes to look for a job, don’t be afraid to shoot over your head. Many job postings ask for the moon, but they’ll settle for less if that’s all they get in the applicant pool. Lastly, never stop learning.
At Cybervista, we have two goals in our practice tests and online training courses: to help you learn the material so you can pass the exam, and help you retain the information so you can apply what you learn to aid you for the rest of your career. Learn more about N2K’s Live Online Training courses here.