Personalise my view
Personalise my view

😊 Personalise my view

We use cookies, including those from third-party providers, to enhance your online experience and deliver personalised advertisements. By using our website, you consent to our use of cookies and our privacy policy

Cyber security is Monique’s calling

After a career in human resources, payroll, project and contract management, Monique Cooper decided to secure her future by studying to become a cyber security specialist. 

"I was experiencing many changes to my role, which took away most of the challenges. So, I started thinking about taking another career direction," explained Monique.

"At the same time, I was receiving phishing emails, and my IT team warned us about the security threats coming through, piquing my interest in cyber security."

Having previously graduated with a Bachelor's in Business in Information Systems in 2000, Monique had always wanted to work in IT, but life led her down other professional paths.

Then, after a three-month secondment with her agency’s Information Security team, she knew she wanted a career specialising in cyber security.

"The cyber security industry is snowballing, and I found it so interesting that I was determined to work in the industry, and with the backing and support of the Queensland Government Cyber Security Unit (CSU), I was led to TAFE Queensland,” she said.

Juggling her family and work commitments with her Certificate IV in Cyber Security (22603VIC) studies, Monique completed her course thanks to her supportive family, teachers, and classmates.

"I was nervous about studying, being around new people, not knowing what to expect from them or the course. I was also a bit apprehensive because I thought I would be in a class with a young crowd, but I wasn’t, and we all clicked well. It was such a supportive environment," she said.

"The class had people from different backgrounds, and we helped each other to understand and complete our work. The teachers were amazing too – they were so patient, if there was something we didn't know, they wouldn't move on until we understood it."

Her course taught her various technical skills, including how to implement network security infrastructure and detect breaches in network security, as well as essential soft skills such as stakeholder management.

After her course, Monique applied for a placement with the CSU, where she put her training into practice.

“It was a position they offered all Cert 4 graduates, and I was one of two who joined them for 12 months in their mobility program. I learned all the aspects of cyber security, from DMARC and phishing to working in the security operations centre and threat and vulnerability management using the Rapid7 Insight VM security console – it was great.”

During her time with the Cyber Security Unit, Monique combined her cyber security skills and passion for social engineering to design and run mock phishing campaigns for other Qld agencies to test their employees' security awareness.

"For one agency, I researched local events and found a race day that was happening, which was fully booked. So, I designed an email offering a weekend pass, including camping and dinner at the hotel."

"Within 10 minutes of sending it, one person clicked on the link and entered their credentials. In two hours, we had 19 people - it was amazing."

"It was perfect for the employee's awareness and understanding, and I was able to show them what to look for in an unsolicited email to stay vigilant and ensure they don't get scammed," said Monique.

With this foundation of knowledge and skills in website and ICT security and IT network testing, Monique has launched the career she's always wanted. She's rediscovered her passion for working with computers and is exploring the area of cybersecurity she intends to specialise in.

"I listen to stories on Darknet Diaries, and hearing what hackers and scammers do gives me goosebumps - I love the social engineering side of cyber, working with the human element."

Now working with the Electoral Commission Queensland, Monique triages service and cyber requests, monitors incident queues and works as part of a team to keep election systems secure.

Monique’s day job involves protecting people’s private data by preventing attacks on the networks and systems in which their data is stored.

"I’m in love with everything cyber. Every day, I work to protect my employer from cyber criminals and educate our people to try and make using the internet safer for them."

“I love that I'm always learning, running the social engineering and the phishing campaigns and being able to educate people and get the message out. I finally know what I want to do when I grow up, and I love everything about it.”

Monique encourages anyone considering making a career change to research, weigh their options, take the leap, and study their passion.

"I graduated with my IT bachelor's degree 20 plus years ago, and here I finally am, working with computers in an industry I'm passionate about."

"Thanks to TAFE Queensland, I got hands-on learning, a good understanding of what to expect from the industry and a foot in the door with the CSU to get my hands dirty in a real live position."

"My education since then has been fantastic, and I could not have done it without completing my certificate," Monique concluded.