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Follow Sreyash Ratna Tripathi's journey to become a cybersecurity professional

I believe I have always been the tinkering kind. The curiosity of learning how everything worked from a young age drove me towards engineering and learning about programming and exploring computer systems at my school and home solidified my interests in computer science.

After seeing my father and the local computer engineer toil endlessly to fix our home computer when a computer virus infected it, I learnt that viruses caused computers to crash much before I knew that they also caused common cold and the inquisitive nature in me started my journey in cybersecurity.

I joined NIIT University (NU) with the 2013-17 cohort in the CSE (Computer Science and Engineering) major. One of the reasons for choosing NU was that it offered a breadth of computer science courses along with field specialisation, which enabled me to follow a T-model of learning and delve deeper with a specialisation in the field of cybersecurity. I believe NU offered me the structured academic undergrad education along with the time, platform, and resources to hone my skills. I got to learn from great mentors such as Mr Akhlesh Agarwal, Mr Sanjay Gupta, Mr Sachidanand Swami, Dr Vijay Kumar, Dr Debasis Das, and Dr Kamlesh Bajaj. I also participated in various social and technical clubs like the Debate Club, TALF, Microsoft Innovation Centre, Community Connect, and the IngeNUity team.

I saw how practical experience, bridged the gap between academic learning and industry. Hence, from second year onwards, when the academics were more streamlined towards computer science and programming, every summer I undertook internships starting with NIIT ltd. and NU where I worked on developing reporting modules for the Nucleus ERP and next with Bristlecone where I learnt consulting fundamentals and solutions architecture. I also took the peer learning initiative at NU and in my second and third year conducted a course in ASP.NET (C#) and became a Teaching Assistant for the Fundamentals of Programming course. These efforts did come with their rewards. I was recognised as one of the top contributors for TALF, became Microsoft Student Partner and the National Finalist in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup’16, and got the opportunity to represent NU and India at the 7th Student’s Service Outsourcing Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition – in China.

My fourth year at NU was when I had to make a decision about what I wanted to do in the future. I could see my peers prepping for further studies or industry placement interviews, and after much deliberation and discussion, I formalised that I will first gain some industry experience and then pursue my Master’s. This, when I look back, was an extremely important map that I made for myself, something that helped me ultimately land my position at my graduate college three years later.

I did my industry practice with KPMG in their Cyber Defense and Cyber Incident Response verticals, where I was later absorbed as a full-time employee. While I cannot talk much about the projects or my experience there, due to their confidential nature, I should mention that it was a great learning opportunity for me and I ended up networking with great mentors, leaders, and friends. Punching above my weight, I always tried to take tasks exceeding my responsibilities and gave my best to them. I learnt countless practical cyber security aspects and project and people management skills. As a Consultant, I always had to demonstrate thought leadership, research on new and existing technologies, and provide innovative solutions to meet client deliverables. Outside of work, personal research in the field of threat intelligence yielded the REScure Threat Intelligence Platform. Co-creating this framework enhanced my understanding of distributed systems, their integration with security devices, and how to efficiently collect, store and distribute threat intelligence.

During my time at KPMG, I started preparing for my Master’s and got into Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) MS in Information Security program. Situated in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, CMU is the best university for Computer Science and its branches, including cybersecurity. In my last two semesters, I have learnt a great deal about computer systems, network security, and hands-on practical security. With COVID-19, my experience at CMU had certainly been different than that of students in previous years but my courses at CMU definitely increased the depth of my security knowledge, which helped get my internship at Activision Inc. in my first semester itself. Along with Academics, I was part of the CMU rowing club and am the Vice President of GOINI (the graduate student organisation). I shall be completing my master this year in December.

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