Student Stories: Amy Wheeler

Amy Wheeler

Major: Computer and Information Technology (CIT)

As a child, Amy Wheeler received an electronics kit with several hundred do-it-yourself STEM projects.

“It ignited my curiosity to analyze how things function, how they can break, and how they can be repaired and improved,” she said. “I’ve approached life with that mindset.”

Wheeler realized she belonged in IT security while holding a job working with health insurance benefits. Familiar with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), she asked IT a security-related question and was invited to attend information security study sessions held by some of her IT colleagues. These sessions shifted her interest toward information security and cybersecurity.

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Wheeler planned to apply for the next open position in the IT department when COVID-19 hit. Unfortunately, with her company now struggling, she was one of many layoffs. While searching for another job, she came across an alarming number of scams, which strengthened her desire to pursue an IT career.

“One work-from-home health care-related job I applied to emailed me, saying they required a scan of my computer before moving forward with the application process,” she said. “I sensed several red flags. I wrote back saying I’d be happy to let them scan my computer once we decided I was a good fit for the company and asked when they were available for an interview. They insisted on scanning my computer before even speaking to me. I blocked them. That experience made me think about how the pandemic provided more opportunities for bad actors to exploit vulnerable people. It made up my mind to pursue a career change.”

The professors in the Computer and Information Technology program want you to succeed and go out of their way to help answer your questions.

Amy Wheeler

When looking at schools, Wheeler already was familiar with the quality at College of DuPage, where she had taken both credit and noncredit classes for professional development. Several aspects of COD’s Computer and Information Technology (CIT) program stood out from the others.Standard Inner: Focus Quote

“First, I felt COD’s program was more well-rounded and would prepare me for more job opportunities,” she said. “Second, I liked how COD’s program was designed to earn certificates as you worked toward your associate degree. Third, I found the CIT 2+2 and 3+1 transfer agreements appealing. Fourth, I was drawn to COD’s Cyber Defense Club. Finally, from a communications professional’s perspective, COD’s website was the cleanest and most user friendly. During a time when we were all working remotely, I felt a user-friendly website was a sign that online courses would operate more smoothly. I wasn’t disappointed.”

Wheeler completed her Associate in Applied Science in CIT and seven CIT certificates, graduating with honors. She also earned three industry certifications: CompTIA ITF+, CompTIA A+ and Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA). She currently is studying for the CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+ and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) exams.

Now working full time as a cybersecurity analyst, she plans to continue earning certifications and eventually pursue advanced degrees in IT.

“My interests lie in technological abuse and our lack of legislation to cover those abuses,” she said. “There’s a very dark side to technology, and many people are unaware of it unless it happens to them or someone they know. One day, I’d like to play a part in preventing some of those abuses from happening.”

Wheeler is happy that her IT journey began at COD, where she joined the DuPage Cyber Defense Club and participated in 11 cybersecurity competitions. The good relationships she developed with her professors will provide an excellent support system as she moves forward in her career.

More COD Success Stories

“COD exposed me to like-minded classmates who inspired and motivated me to keep working toward my goals. I made friends through my classes, the DuPage Cyber Defense Club and while working as a student worker at the COD Library’s Computing Support and Printing Services department,” she said. “On a personal level, learning about computer and information technology made me more self-sufficient and increased my confidence. Working in the library and helping students and community members with their projects was very fulfilling, and I felt honored when they shared their personal stories with me. It always seemed someone shared their story when I needed to hear it the most.

“I met so many wonderful people while earning my CIT degree at COD, and I encourage students to meet with a program advisor as early as possible to plan their path. Nazia Naqvi knows the program well and helped me develop a strategic educational plan. Learn about the money-saving resources available through the library. Students can check out loaner laptops and hotspots and access e-books to prepare for certification exams. Alumnus Joshua Miller started the COD Technology Discord server that’s grown to a community of more than 200 tech students, who share career advice and help each other when they’re struggling with a concept. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t get discouraged. The professors in the Computer and Information Technology program want you to succeed and go out of their way to help answer your questions.”

Learn more about the Computer Information Technology program at College of DuPage