When Adjua Lake obtained her first laptop computer, she – like so many of us — eventually ended up with a virus.
Instead of fear or frustration, she responded with curiosity – and developed a lifelong love for computers and the effort it takes to safeguard them. Graduating this May with a degree in Computer Security and Forensics, Lake’s long-term dream is to become a part of the national agencies that safeguard the country’s cyber welfare.
“Let’s say some hacker has gotten control of your computer. I go to hack the hacker, or get the virus off the computer,” explained Lake, who describes herself as “the computer geek” in her family.
A native of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Lake took a year off after graduating high school. Then, she attended Glendale Community College in California, where she stayed with family. After discovering it would take too long to earn her degree, she began investigating programs in computer forensics.
She was interested in the University at Albany, but it was too expensive to attend for all four years. So she opted for SUNY Broome, which is a transfer partner with Albany for the Bachelor’s of Science in Digital Forensics.
She quickly came to love SUNY Broome – although she’s not a fan of Upstate winters, being from the Caribbean. (In case you’re wondering, her family back home is doing fine and has largely recovered from the damage their homes sustained in the 2017 hurricanes.)
“SUNY Broome is an awesome school for students who want to do a quick two years and go into the workforce and do something they love,” she explained.
Partnership programs, such as the one she is participating in, give students even more options for seamless transfer. Small class sizes and the opportunity to forge personal connections with professors are assets as well.
“Broome is small and to me, sometimes small is good. Being on a small campus, teachers know you by your name and not a number, and that is what all students look for while attending class,” she said.
At home in the Student Village
Adjua Lake also found a home at SUNY Broome in another way: as a resident and now a Resident Assistant, or RA, in the Student Village.
During her first year as a resident student, the RAs were very welcoming. One became a friend and convinced her to apply. She joined the Residential Life staff in October, and has come to feel part of “one big happy family.”
It also gave Lake the opportunity to give back – something she missed from her high school days, when she stayed active with community service, including teaching the elderly how to navigate computers. Not only does she enjoy her role, she plans to apply to become an RA at her transfer school.
“It’s not only a job, it’s a way to help students,” she explained.
Cybersecurity: You need it!
After she earns a bachelor’s degree, Adjua plans to pursue a master’s and ultimately a career with a government agency such as the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security or the Department of Defense fighting cyber crime.
A likely but somewhat unexpected minor: photography or graphic design. She has picked up the former as a hobby, shooting family and school events, and came to enjoy graphic design by way of her involvement in computers.
“I can’t draw for my life, but I can do so many things with the computer,” she said.
As someone pursuing a career in the field, she advises her fellow digital citizens to take their own cybersecurity seriously. Recognize that smartphones can be hacked, especially if you use public, unsecured wifi. Use only secure networks and make sure that you never leave apps or webpages with sensitive information – such as bank accounts – open when you’re done using them.
If you have wifi at home, make sure it’s password-protected. That’s not foolproof, but it does provide some measure of security. And you may want to consider adopting Adjua’s own practice: “Whenever I leave my house, I always turn off my wifi,” she said.
Above all, stay alert to new technologies – and not just the opportunities they represent, but their risks as well.
“Every development, every new technology out there – you’ve got to be aware,” she said.