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From cyber victim to cyber security specialist

When the pandemic ground the tourism industry to a halt in April 2020, Gabriela Sorsa lost her operations job in the cruise industry, leaving her feeling that she'd lost her purpose.

"After being made redundant from my dream job in the cruise industry. I was heartbroken. Then my partner suggested I should study something that I've always wanted to do but never had the time to commit to," explains Gabriela.

After researching available TAFE courses, she decided to enrol in Cyber Security, despite not having any qualifications or experience in information technology.

"I was attracted to the topic, having been hacked seven years ago and having my life savings stolen. I remember feeling helpless that I couldn't find out who did it or how. I also had to prove to my bank that it was a legitimate hack by doing my research to understand what happened."

"There was a happy ending, though. I managed to get my money back, learned a valuable lesson and almost a decade later, it inspired me to study cyber security."

So, making the most of 2020, despite the disruption of Covid, she began her cyber security studies, relaunching her career in a new and exciting industry.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the Certificate IV in Cyber Security (22334VIC) (099398K) with TAFE. It's given me a holistic view of cyber security, making it both very useful and fun at the same time.

"We were taught to look for connections and use critical thinking when making decisions, and I now understand digital security's technological, legal, administrative, economic, and psychological aspects."

"Never have I been so excited to learn new things. The excitement of the penetration test project with my teachers, the troubleshooting of each Linux server that was not connecting, the satisfaction of setting up SPLUNK, and every informative classroom session where my teachers mentored me was inspiring."

However, studying in the middle of a pandemic often meant disruption. When feelings of uncertainty crept into the class, Gabriela and her classmates took it upon themselves to ensure they got through it together.

"Throughout the 18 months of study, my classmates and I shared our struggles and stayed connected as we came to grip our new reality, where our futures were uncertain because of Covid."

"We learned the importance of supporting each other with a mixture of determination, creativity and collaboration during our assignments and projects. We've learned remotely, and the TAFE team worked tirelessly to ensure lockdowns and outbreaks do not disrupt our studies."

While her classmates and teachers helped her finish her studies, Gabriela also cites perseverance, passion, and determination to allow her to succeed.

"The TAFE community and the teachers will move mountains to support their students to succeed. Between my job in aged care and my studies, I worked 60 hours a week and sometimes it was quite often difficult - but it paid off because I now live and breathe cyber security."

In a nod to how passionate she is about cyber security, Gabriela would connect with accomplished professionals and invite them to come and talk to her class and meet her classmates, organising coaching sessions.

"It went so well that some of us received employment offers, so I've decided to keep running these 'meet and greets' for larger groups of students."

"These coaching sessions helped enhance our student journey into employment, and it couldn't have happened without the amazing teachers who supported us."

Now a graduate, Gabriela sees the world through a lens of cyber-security and works hard to protect her clients, friends, family and herself, from domestic and global attacks.

"We are connected like never before. This means we have to work like never before to meet the challenges of this information age that we now live in. The internet is the neural system of our lives, and it's essential to our economy, society, and personal lives – but it is vulnerable to attack."

"By combining our knowledge, skill and expertise, and unique insights and capabilities, we can detect and respond to threats and stop them before they become effective attacks."

Gabriela is now thriving as she navigates complex cyber challenges while defending against attacks designed to cause and inflict harm to her clients critical technology infrastructure.

"I feel fortunate to go from feeling helpless to being the curious and determined girl in my class to now working in an industry that keeps me on my toes.

"I owe it all to TAFE Queensland, and it's something which I could not possibly have achieved without a lot of support from those around me - specifically my husband, classmates and teachers who invested and encouraged me to achieve this outcome."

"Two years on from the pandemic, I can genuinely say there are no mistakes in life, just learning and experience. So never give up, regardless of how many times you may fail. Stick to your ambition, to achieve your goals as I have."