If there’s one thing Nora Luna is certain of, it’s that even intimidating challenges can be overcome.
That was part of her message to nearly 100 students and guests attending Cochise College’s first Cybersecurity Night last month. Luna (’16) served on an alumni panel that answered audience questions. An employer panel included representatives of the military and local contractors. All shared insights about what it takes to not only study cybersecurity, but also to advance in the field.
“There will always be challenges, but nothing that can’t be overcome,” Luna told the audience. “The sky is the limit, and age is but a number. Anything is possible.”
Luna’s perseverance in balancing work, family and school was noted and applauded by a fellow panelist who witnessed the effort she put into it.
A 1995 graduate of Tombstone High School, Luna is a single parent who worked three jobs while attending college. Now she’s “down to two” jobs, one as grants specialist with Tombstone Unified School District, where her new knowledge helps inform decisions about the confidentiality of student information. She also now works part time on Fort Huachuca for OSI Vision, a contractor that provides services in the areas of IT operations, cybersecurity, logistics and supply chain management, and systems engineering. At OSI, she trouble shoots and provides desktop support, assists users with specific accounts provided by the military, and is part of the quality management team. She also earned SEC+ certification and is trained to lock down and keep information secure to avoid spillage and other security risks.
Luna initially planned to study business. She switched to information security during the time the program was evolving into cybersecurity. The degree, she thought, would open the door to a variety of local employment opportunities.
Time management and related decisions were difficult, she concedes, as she temporarily sacrificed what she values most – family – in order to be able to accomplish something necessary – graduation and financial security. She graduated as a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society with a 3.76 grade point average. Supportive family, friends, and college faculty and staff played a significant role in helping her along the way.
“I would not have accomplished what I have so far without them,” she said. “My daughter, now a sophomore, supported me without question and helped me study. It felt like a team, as this was going to better both of our lives. I feel very humbled, as I hoped to be an example to my daughter. I wanted her to see that it can be done no matter what the situation.”
After a bit of a breather, if you can call it that, Luna plans to complete a second associate’s degree in business and transfer to the University of Arizona South, where she can pursue studies in either business or cybersecurity, or both.
If there’s any other advice she’d share, it’s that working less can allow students to take advantage of extracurricular opportunities she wishes she hadn’t missed.
“I would encourage anyone to work less if they can and put as much time and attention to school and learning as possible,” Luna said. “Learning is such a great thing, and to have the ability to learn new things and grow is its own reward.”