For Tauty Sanchez, choosing Pima was easy – she knew she’d feel represented and supported
By Kanika Samra
Pima Community College External Relations
Tauty Sanchez is amongst a group of student-interns gaining hands-on experience at the Center of Excellence in Information Technology/Cybersecurity (IT CoE) on PCC’s East Campus. As an intern at the Cybersecurity Operations Center –CSOC for short– Tauty is working on an Elasticsearch project that looks at incoming cybersecurity threats, such as attacks on an institutions’ firewall, and parses them for information. Parsing, she explains, helps to identify relevant information from long and complicated data feeds which contain strings of numbers and characters. Making sense of incoming traffic and then taking appropriate decisions is key.
Learning by doing – building an industry-ready workforce
While it might sound like all this could be automated, human input, oversight and timely intervention is important and necessary. Just ask Will McCullen, Advanced Program Manager, IT CoE, who will offer up numerous examples of work done at the Arizona Cyber Warfare Range (AZCWR) with real world implications. In addition to the CSOC and a collaboration with AZCWR – which allows students and community members to hone their skills; the IT CoE hosts a data center that is entirely managed by students. McCullen says faculty and staff at the Center want to be responsive to business and industry needs. By installing and managing enterprise equipment students can bridge the gap between theory and practice, and employers are seeing value in a ready-to-deploy talent pool.
A bold mid-career move
For Tauty the thought of one day pursuing a career in IT wasn’t always far-fetched. Born in Douglas, Arizona she spent the formidable part of her childhood in Mexico, moving back to Tucson in high school. The culture shock was immediate. From having to regain proficiency in English, once her primary language to fitting in with her peers, it was a learning curve.
“I think learning is a skill that we have to do for the rest of our lives. It’s not just attending college and earning a degree. It’s pushing yourself to do something different.”~ Tauty Sanchez
One to persevere, she succeeded and studied at Pima before transferring to the University of Arizona for her bachelor’s degree in business administration. From then until her return to Pima in June 2021, Tauty climbed the corporate ladder at Walgreens. But even as a manager, her interest in tech was apparent. Every time a software upgrade or change happened, she made it a point to learn all the ins and outs. So, when the pandemic hit and working in a healthcare-affiliated field became stressful, she was ready for a change.
Having already been a Pima student and aware of the college’s impact on the community, returning was a no-brainer. Tauty will graduate in December 2022 with an Associate of Science degree with a specialization in Cybersecurity. She hopes to pursue a role in IT/Cybersecurity before deciding on a master’s, perhaps an MBA.
Representation matters: bridging the gap one at a time
After a 16-year career in business, Tauty is aware of the challenges women face in the workplace. According to the U.S. Census Bureau while women accounted for half of the overall workforce by 2019, they made up only 27% of people employed in STEM jobs. Within this minority, Hispanic women and Latinas are just about 2% of the Tech workforce (AnitaB.org, 2020). As a Latina, were Tauty to pursue a career in tech as she currently hopes to, she will bolster the ranks of a long-underrepresented minority within this field. She is also acutely aware of the male domination in the IT sector. But that doesn’t faze her.
Learning is a life skill
Already fluent in the language of tech, Tauty thinks of herself as an eternal learner. For those keen on making a change in their careers she says, “I think learning is a skill that we have to do for the rest of our lives. It’s not just attending college and earning a degree. It’s pushing yourself to do something different, that you might feel uncomfortable doing, but at the end of the day you learn something.” At Pima and the IT CoE, Tauty says she found an inclusive community that is helping her forge ahead in a new field.