Some career paths have rocketlike trajectories.
Shannon Linares (CDM ’19) is an information security engineer at Raytheon, a major U.S. defense contractor and industrial corporation specializing in missile systems, military and commercial electronics, and cybersecurity services. She’s worked at Raytheon’s missile systems subsidiary in Tucson, Ariz., since July 2019.
As recently as 2016, Linares was attending College of DuPage, a community college in Chicago’s western suburbs, and assessing her next steps as an aspiring first-generation college graduate. Her parents, blue-collar factory and warehouse workers, were supportive. Her mom, who’d arrived in the United States as a refugee from Guatemala, was proud of her determined daughter. But Linares’ decision to transfer to DePaul—where, three years later, she earned a bachelor’s degree in network engineering and security from the School of Computing (SoC)—was sparked when she witnessed a malware attack while working a part-time job in customer support and database administration at a packaging supplies manufacturer.
“I sort of fell into the field,” says Linares. “But if you’re curious about solving complex problems, know your strengths and are open to learning constantly and working hard, it’s totally doable.”
Linares thrived in the collaborative, hands-on environment nurtured by SoC’s faculty, who help connect students with industry experts in the growing field’s numerous disciplines. It was at a Women in Cybersecurity conference Linares attended while at DePaul that she met her current manager at Raytheon.
En route to graduation, Linares undertook internships at Northwestern Medicine and Juniper Networks, a global networking tech company. She also belonged to Security Daemons, a student club whose members compete in cybersecurity competitions.
In 2017, Linares led a student team from three different higher ed institutions to victory in the Illinois Capture The Flag competition held by U.S. Cyber Challenge (USCC), a public-private partnership program that helps train cybersecurity professionals. Linares was among the select few eligible to compete after being invited to attend an intensive, four-day USCC summer camp.
Linares says respect and communication among teammates was key to the win. “It’s important to have your own technical skill set,” she says. “But it’s often harder for people in this competitive field to share what they’re doing with others and successfully move in one direction at the same time.”
Earning respect as a woman in a male-dominated field is another challenge, adds Linares. “I don’t know if I’d have it any other way, though,” she says. “It teaches you to have a thick skin, stand behind your ideas and talk to leadership about things you find important.”
One thing Linares finds important, besides computer science, is helping others. In Chicago, she mentored kids in STEM skills for a West Side community nonprofit and volunteered for a refugee resettlement service. Despite her busy workload at Raytheon, she makes time to support a Women in STEM student group at the University of Arizona.
“I love to share my story, and hope it empowers others,” says Linares. “Never give up.”