‘Technology was always an interest of mine’
Conor Quinn recently completed a Fulbright scholarship programme in cybersecurity with Boston College
Conor Quinn: “In 2018, I became aware of the Fulbright programme and its availability to not only academics, but also professionals.”
What did you study and when did you graduate?
Following completion of my second level education in Wesley College, Dublin, I studied for a BSc in Computer Science at University College Dublin. I graduated from there in 2015 and began working full-time in a consulting company via its graduate programme. While working, I completed a Masters in Digital Investigation and Forensic Computing part-time, graduating in 2017.
Recently I completed a Fulbright Scholarship in Cybersecurity with Boston College.
What attracted you to your current path?
Technology was always an interest of min e, even from my school days. During my Computer Science degree, my final year thesis had a cybersecurity focus. I was fortunate to have it published as a co-authored paper for an international cybercrime conference. This area of research led to a career path in the cybersecurity industry.
In 2018, I became aware of the Fulbright programme and its availability to not only academics, but also professionals. The programme offers students, scholars and professionals the opportunity to conduct advanced research in a variety of specialised fields of study at universities in the United States. It is considered one of the most prestigious exchange programmes around the world. I was fortunate enough to be chosen as the inaugural Fulbright Scholar in Cybersecurity to Boston College, where I spent a semester researching cybersecurity and working with their Masters in Cybersecurity.
Today, I am a cybersecurity manager at Accenture in Ireland which allows me to apply my knowledge and experience to help our clients build their cyber resilience. While cybersecurity is deeply technical in nature, I have the opportunity to communicate complex issues in business terms.
What did you find most challenging about the working world?
Coming from a STEM background, there is such a strong focus on technical and practical skills. The hardest part of the transition from STEM education to the working world is the level of communication and soft skills required. Having the technical skills is critical but is limiting unless you can clearly communicate topics and work as part of a team. I also found that participating in a team sport since my teens really helped me develop those skills early on and this certainly helped my own transition to the working world.
Do you have any mentors? If so, what is their value to you?
I think it is really important to take advice and guidance whenever the opportunity presents. It is important to be able to look at issues from multiple perspectives. This is the real benefit of having a mentor. They have the benefit of that experience base and can help me look at things in different ways.
From a work perspective, Jacky Fox, the managing director of Accenture’s Security practice, has been a huge influence on my career to date. Having somebody so experienced and well respected in the industry to help navigate a career in a growing field has given me the confidence and knowledge to allow me grow professionally.
I have been really fortunate to gain another mentor as a result of my Fulbright Scholarship in Boston College. The director of the Masters in Cybersecurity programme, Professor Kevin Powers, has given me great advice and guidance on all aspects of the industry and on how to grow a career.
What is the most valuable thing you have learned since you joined the programme?
I think if it was one thing it must be the value of building a broad range of networks. While in Boston I was fortunate enough to meet and engage with some well-known global thought leaders and experts in cybersecurity. The Fulbright credential opens those doors and opportunities. For someone early in their career this was priceless and really highlighted to me the need to have broad networks. It means you can call on expertise and insight in a trusted way. Although I was in the United States for only a few short months, I am still in contact with many members of the Boston cybersecurity industry and I am still part of the Boston College cybersecurity research group.
How has Covid-19 affected your working life?
Before the pandemic hit, my usual working day would be office-based where I could be in meetings, conducting project work or presenting to clients. Since COVID-19, like a lot of people, I have been working from home and thankfully the switch has been quite seamless. At Accenture, we usually work in group projects and we have fantastic collaboration tools that now allow us to work remotely as a team very successfully. Certainly I miss the social aspect of being in the office but we get together virtually for social events to help grow as a team and switch off from work.
What is one piece of advice you would offer new graduates?
The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone conducting a Fulbright Scholarship is to take advantage of the opportunities. The Fulbright name is world renowned and is held in high regard. The opportunities provided by it, be it professional or personal, will always stand to you as you further your career. Enjoy the experience and get involved in the social side of things. I would also advise linking up with other Fulbright Scholars from other disciplines, as there are always opportunities for collaboration. These are all wonderful learning and life experiences.