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MSST Student Realizes Life-Long Passion Through Cyber Security Focus | Technological Leadership Institute

Posted on
January 25, 2017
Photo of M.S. in Security Technologies student Cole Claffey

Seven years ago, the Technological Leadership Institute (TLI) launched the M.S. in Security Technologies (MSST) program in response to the rapidly growing needs of the security sector in order to train professionals to protect communities by becoming security experts and leaders. Today, MSST is still drawing in students like Cole Claffey for that very reason.

Claffey, who now works as an IT auditor at U.S. Bank, knew from an early age that he wanted to protect people. It was the “how” that he would realize over time.  

“My family has a background in law enforcement,” said Claffey, who is from Dayton, Minnesota, a northwest suburb of Minneapolis. “My grandfather and great-grandfather were both the Sheriff of Le Sueur County, so from a young age helping and protecting people was ingrained in me. Protecting and helping those that couldn’t do it themselves was something I did in every job I had ever since high school.”

Claffey, who graduated with a double major in political science and law enforcement, went on to work as a corrections officer at a maximum-security prison in Minnesota, where he sought to gain real-world experience within the physical security domain. The hours and the pay, however, left him struggling with hefty student loans and little personal time.

“I knew there had to be a way to help people while still maintaining a healthy work-life balance,” said Claffey. “I was always good with computers and technology, so I leveraged this along with my passion to protect and help people.”

Often the “go-to tech guy” among friends and family, Claffey had acquired years of experience upgrading computers, from software to installing physical components. Combining his passion and technical skills, Claffey took a job as an associate data security analyst before landing his current role as an IT auditor for Corporate Audit Services at U.S. Bank.

“We are the last line of defense in ensuring that the bank is compliant with regulations and operating effectively overall,” said Claffey. “My role specifically is related to the auditing of IT systems/controls at the bank.”

Motivated by his career and a desire to grow personally and professionally, Claffey decided to pursue an MBA. He had chosen an online program at a Minnesota college that had a cyber emphasis, but after one class, he knew it wasn’t the right fit.

“While I was interested in business, the MBA program lacked the depth of cyber security curriculum I sought,” said Claffey. “I also wanted to graduate from a highly reputable institution.”

An internet search led him to TLI’s MSST program.

“The MSST program allows you to come out as a generalist or a specialist in just about any industry,” said Claffey, whose focus is in on the cyber-risk sector. “MSST is heavy in risk management, which is needed everywhere and in every industry.”

In addition, Claffey says the reasonable cost — which was lower than the MBA he had previously enrolled in — along with in-person interaction with TLI faculty and staff sold him.

“The professors are excellent and leading experts in the various fields of risk management and security,” said Claffey. “My classmates motivate me by delivering great products and ideas for projects and assignments. From recent college graduates to people heading towards retirement, the desire to learn within this program is the biggest motivator for me.”

He says MSST also helped clarify just how he could actually go about fulfilling his passion of protecting people.

“My goals moving forward are to stay with (U.S. Bank) and bring back the knowledge I learned as a result of the program to better our group from a cyber security standpoint,” said Claffey. “As I progress with my career in the bank, I hope to transition into a leadership role surrounding cyber security. In MSST, I discovered how much I enjoy briefing and providing the translation of cyber-related topics to key stakeholders.”

One of the things Claffey loves most about the MSST program is the flexibility and support of his instructors and employer for his success in the program.

“The program is really designed for the working professional and still allows you to complete full credit class loads in a short time period,” said Claffey. “The risk management/cyber emphasis is a very hot topic in banking, and these courses all add value to what I want to bring back to my employer, who has supported me through tuition reimbursement as well as scheduling.”

But the program is far from a breeze, said Claffey, who is now more keenly aware of cyber security in his everyday life decisions, the value of teamwork, communications and perseverance.

“Buckle in and have time set aside to do the assignments, or it can be taxing on yourself and your teammates,” said Claffey. “Most importantly, never stop learning. This field is ever-evolving, and the MSST curriculum keeps you on your toes.”

Students in the M.S. in Security Technologies degree program come from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds. Attend an information session to find out how a master’s degree could give you the security expertise to enhance your career.

About the Author

Photo of Azra Halilovic

Azra Halilovic

Senior Communications Specialist

The professors are excellent and leading experts in the various fields of risk management and security ... From recent college graduates to people heading towards retirement, the desire to learn within this program is the biggest motivator for me.

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