Graduating senior Benjamin Youngblood reflects on development in cybersecurity and anticipates beginning his career in the field

Video games sparked Benjamin Youngblood's fascination with technology. Initially, the future Alcorn State University graduate was interested in becoming a video game developer, but a scholarship opportunity and the introduction to another STEM area altered his interest.

“I originally came to college wanting to be a video game developer,” said Youngblood, a Battle Creek, Michigan native. “However, upon receiving a cybersecurity internship from the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in summer 2020, I gained a newfound passion for cybersecurity after having a once-in-a-lifetime experience during the internship.”

As Youngblood prepares to receive his bachelor’s degree in computer science at Alcorn’s Commencement Exercise on Saturday, he reflects on the opportunity that INL provided him last year. INL is the nation’s leading center for nuclear energy research and development. The company works in the strategic goal areas of the U.S. Department of Energy that include energy, national security, science, and the environment.

The experience enhanced Youngblood’s management abilities and taught him to recognize subtle nuances in technology that would lead to success in his field.

“I was able to develop my project management and leadership skills while working in the Cybersecurity Risk Management department. Having led a project to optimize user access control processes, I learned the nuances, details, and work required to see a project through on a full-time business level, as well as what it takes to assess and fix vulnerabilities on a computer network.”

Problem solving and confidence in presenting his ideas are some other skills that the internship helped Youngblood develop. 

“While working on that assignment and other projects, I found that being creative and open-minded when approaching network security issues is useful in improving my strategic thinking skills, which I have come to realize is one of my biggest strengths as a person. I also gained more confidence and presentation skills by presenting my ideas to co-workers and executive directors. In addition, INL gave me the tools and guidance to improve technically, emotionally, and socially through various training seminars.”

Alcorn professors who care about their students’ futures are the reason why Youngblood and his computer science peers found high-profile internships such as his opportunity at INL. He thanks his professors and the University for allowing their students to thrive.

“The professors in Alcorn’s computer science program constantly encouraged my classmates and me to obtain internships, as well as introduced us to opportunities to obtain them. Many times, I’d find internships posted on their office doors in the Math & Science Building, and sometimes, they would allow us to attend computer science conferences and job fairs. On top of that, the courses offered in the program gave a wide range of knowledge that exposes students to many career options in the computer science field.”

Taking advantage of enriching opportunities has led Youngblood to secure a cloud security architect position at Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington D.C. after graduation. The company is a global firm that works in consulting, analytics, digital solutions, engineering, cyber, and industries ranging from defense to health to energy to international development. 

Youngblood is responsible for building, designing, and installing security systems for cloud-based computing and data storage systems in his new position. His job also includes assessing and testing existing cloud computing systems and creating firewalls, improving network security, and encrypting data to further secure systems.

He’s excited to begin his career.

“I’m most looking forward to putting my knowledge and skills to work in a real-world environment. I hope to make a difference in cybersecurity by making people more aware of security risks on their computers and networks, as well as understanding that cybersecurity is becoming as important as the security of your physical home.”

Alcorn gave Youngblood the experience he’s always wanted. As his journey ends, he expresses appreciation for the University that he will always adore.

“I’ve loved my experience at Alcorn since I stepped onto campus as a student in August 2017. It lived up to the college life dreams I’ve had since I was young. I will miss Alcorn.”