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In her own words

Melissa Strong, 28, came to Tidewater Community College to train for a career. Two years later, she is a systems and network engineer with General Dynamics Information Technology earning three times more than before college.

Before TCC

“I was working as a receptionist in a salon and spa, and I was always hunting for things to fix on the computer. I’ve always enjoyed technology, but it was not something I was encouraged to pursue.

“One of my coworkers encouraged me to go to TCC and take core IT classes until I figured out what I wanted to do.”

Why TCC?

“I really had no expectations going in. I took a virtualization course, and that led me to the cyber security program and Professor Rob Guess. After my first class, I was hooked. What I like best about cyber is that there are many different ways to apply what you are learning. It’s constantly changing and you have to keep learning and apply yourself.”

What are you doing with you Associate of Applied Science in Information Systems Technology

“My degree was IT and I also have a certificate in cyber security. I now work as a systems and network engineer with General Dynamics Information Technology. My education at TCC prepared me to pass the exams necessary to get my job, including the A+ and Security+ certifications. I absolutely love the work I’m doing and the traveling that goes with the position.

“I’m earning three times what I made at the salon. I bought a little place in Norfolk with three bedrooms and a bath and a half. I love living on my own and enjoy cooking when I’m at home. I’m also driving a new-to-me car, a 2016 Toyota Corolla.”

Favorite professors?

“I connected with Professor Guess. He helped me get my job and was a knowledgeable and helpful teacher. Another favorite was Joel Kirch, the faculty advisor for the cyber club. He helped our group do a national cyber league competition.”

While at TCC?

“I volunteered with Computers for Student Success, where we fixed computers and then gave them to students who needed them. I absolutely loved the hands-on work combined with helping others.”

What’s next?

“I’m working on my bachelor’s in information technology from Western Governors University. I’d ultimately like to develop secure applications. What I love about this field is that there are many different ways to apply what you are learning. If you are working in one area, you can change directions easily.”

Best advice for students

“Definitely take advantage of the teachers and use them as resources. They have invaluable life and work experience and are willing to share that knowledge with students.”