PASADENA, Calif. – They say the best defense is a good offense.

And with information more vital than ever, Tech Support Analyst Fabianna Rodríguez-Mercado works out of her New York apartment to protect the data gathered by COVID-19 contract tracers who interact with thousands of people on a daily basis.

What You Need To Know

  • Over 70,000 cybersecurity jobs are available in California

  • Cybersecurity jobs offer entry-level salaries nearly double that of many other industries

  • California has faced record unemployment amid the pandemic

“It’s very interesting. Every morning it’s challenging but very gratifying knowing I’m supporting a contact tracing program that is very critical at this time,” said Rodríguez-Mercado.

Rodríguez-Mercado is relatively new to the cybersecurity industry. Originally from Puerto Rico, where she got a business and marketing administration degree, she was among the first in 2019 to complete a cybersecurity bootcamp offered by Fullstack Academy.

“While I was in college, I never considered a career in technology. I thought I didn’t fit the typical stereotype; a guy with a hoodie,” said Rodríguez-Mercado.

But a bachelor’s degree isn’t required to apply to Fullstack, which recently launched a partnership with Caltech in Pasadena.

Rick Hefner is the program director at the Caltech Center for Technology and Management Education.

The coronavirus pandemic caused payroll employment jobs to fall by over 20 million nationally in April alone, with the unemployment rate spiking to a record-high 15.5 percent in California. But there’s a a demand for those looking to enter the cybersecurity world with over 70,000 cybersecurity jobs available in the Golden State.

“And that gap is growing. So we really tried to look at a program that would develop the sort of skills that were needed out there and give people all over the field of cybersecurity a chance to demonstrate those skills to potential employers,” Hefner said.

The Fullstack Academy is able to provide this training virtually, making it possible for applicants to start taking classes in September through Caltech. The program takes 26 weeks.

In California, cybersecurity jobs command an average entry-level salary of $67,000, nearly double that of many other industries.

The Fullstack Academy boasts an 80 percent job placement rate for graduates. With industry trade publications reporting a 30,000 percent increase in phishing, malicious websites, and malware designed to take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis, Rodríguez-Mercado sees herself as part of the solution...

“It pushed me to learn faster. I love how Fullstack compressed years of learning in just a few weeks,” she said.

If you'd like information on the program, visit Caltech's Cyber Bootcamp online.