I was an incoming freshman to Cal Poly Pomona at the time, having graduated just about a month earlier. I joined the SWIFT (Students with an Interest in the Future of Technology) club in May but thought the club was inactive as there wasn’t much discussion happening in the club’s Discord server for that month and a half. When I was notified of a meeting occuring, I decided to check it out of boredom since I didn’t think too much of the club at the time. This was my introduction to CCDC and CPTC, the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition and the Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition. Seeing the passion from the speakers and alumni, my interest in the club was reignited and I became heavily interested in these competitions. I had only heard of CCDC before this point but I wasn’t too aware of what it was yet.

Prior to the bootcamp, I barely had any “true” experience in cybersecurity. While I had participated in the Cyberpatriot competition for three of my years in high school, all I really did was uninstall programs, modify password policies, and manage the groups of users according to the prompt. I basically had no idea what cybersecurity was; I didn’t even know red teaming was a thing. However, once Alex and Taylor (the team captains of CPTC and CCDC, respectively) started their zoom lectures and posting assignments, I began learning so much; my opinion on cybersecurity completely changed and it became a new interest for me.

The CPTC meetings consisted of lectures on the phases of penetration testing and methods involved with each step. Not knowing anything about Linux or any of these concepts, I dove into these completely blind but enthralled. In addition to just doing the assignments, I worked on extra, related things on my own time for hours of my day; because these things were so interesting to me, time flew by without me noticing.

The CCDC meetings were slightly different; the topics they convered ranged from networking to troubleshooting. While I didn’t share the same extreme interest as I did for CPTC related activities, I was still interested in networking and securing systems.

The two month bootcamp flew by extremely quickly; prior to them, my summer felt slow and unproductive, but once the bootcamp started, time just flew. I never expected that I would spend my summer so productively, nor did I expect to become interested in cybersecurity. It seems cliché to say, but I honestly and completely believe that this bootcamp changed me as a person. If you were to ask me, right after I graduated high school, what I wanted to do, I would’ve responded with something along the lines of a software engineer. Never would I have thought that I would make the competition team for one of the top participants in a large penetration testing competition in just 2 months. On top of that, I would have never believed anybody if they told me that, 2 months after I graduated high school, that I would be hacking machines on HackTheBox for fun, or that I would be somewhat fluent in Linux. Even if I put in a large amount of work for these things, it still wouldn’t have been possible without the bootcamp. Thank you to Alex, Taylor, Gabriel, Robinson, Nathan, and to everyone else who made this possible.