Woman wearing glasses and pink shirt sitting inside smiling

Sincerity Will Take You Far: Message from a 2024 Cyber Graduate

As students hustled to and from their final classes in the College of Computing Building, soon-to-be graduate Alicia Biju reflected on her time in the cybersecurity master’s program. 

From exploring different cybersecurity topics in her degree to exploring Atlanta’s most popular attractions, she has made the most of her two years as a graduate student in the School of Cybersecurity and Privacy (SCP). Her commitment to enriched experiences is best demonstrated by her application to the 2023 Women in Cybersecurity Scholarship

When Biju heard about the opportunity from Tessa Hammond, one of the three Georgia Tech winners from last year, the deadline was two days away. She had to move quickly, filling out the application and securing letters of recommendation from her instructors with almost no time to spare. Her enthusiasm for information security stood out to the judges, granting her a place among the 30 student winners worldwide. 

“Look at your passion for cybersecurity and see where you want to be,” she said. “Don’t be superficial, be sincere. It will take you far!” 

The $10,000 scholarship is sponsored by the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC). It includes a ticket to the organization’s annual summit in Orlando and a one-year mentorship with an industry security professional at an FS-ISAC one corporate partner. Biju was paired with a cybersecurity director at the Charles Schwab Corporation.

Through the scholarship and FS-ISAC conference, Biju got a first-hand look at the day-to-day of a director tasked with safeguarding the data of a large financial firm. While her dream job is to protect sensitive data and communications for Emirates airlines, the industry experience she gained was invaluable. 

Woman wearing glasses and pink shirt stands inside smiling
2023 Women in Cybersecurity Scholarship recipient Alicia Biju graduates Georgia Tech with a master's degree in cybersecurity. Photos by Kevin Beasley/ College of Computing

“This is a very flexible field,” she said.  “I learned a lot about how cybersecurity concepts work in the financial sector with the FS-ISAC annual conference, and I can apply those concepts to future jobs.”

On the academic side, her favorite course at Georgia Tech was ECE 4117/CS 4854: Introduction to Malware Reverse Engineering with Associate Professor Brendan Saltaformaggio. The course had students examine seven pieces of malware and reverse engineer them with increasing difficulty. 

“A lot of work, but very satisfying,” she said. “It takes a few tries to get the full picture, and you get information in ways you wouldn’t think of.”

Biju recognized early on in the master’s program that learning extended beyond the classroom. She actively engaged with course concepts, seeking to master them outside of class. While some topics offered familiar challenges, others presented unique challenges, requiring her to adapt and apply her knowledge across various courses.

“I think that’s the charm of it,” she said. “You aren’t sitting there thinking, ‘I already know this.’ You are learning something new and unique every time.”

SCP’s newest alumnus is looking forward to spending commencement week with her parents when they arrive from Dubai. She plans on showing them her favorite places at Georgia Tech. 

Biju is grateful to everyone at Georgia Tech for giving her an incredible educational experience. She specifically thanked her instructors, Associate Professor Brendan Saltaformaggio, Regents’ Professor Wenke Lee, Professor and Regents’ Entrepreneur Mustaque Ahamad, Assistant Professor Frank Li, Associate Professor Saman Zonouz, and Professor Vijay Madisetti for their support.