When I joined the US Navy in 1995, I wanted to have nothing to do with electronics or computers. I had taken a computer science class in Jr. High School after all, and found it to be very boring and only good for gaming. So, I became a Quartermaster and learned to navigate by the sun and stars instead. Yes, we had GPS, but it was still new at that time, and not always very dependable.
You could always find me on the bridge of the ship with my nautical charts, a pencil in my ear, and lead stains on my fingers. We did have a computer in the chart room however, and it did have Windows 95 installed, so I had to become proficient with using it for word processing and calculating. We didn't have Google or the internet really, so that was pretty much all it was good for, and as far as I dared delve into the realm.
Then, in 2000, I left the Navy and went back home to Georgia, where I became a Firefighter/EMT, and once again, used a computer for basic word processing, spreadsheeting, calculating, and graphic design. It was during this time that I read an article about the future of our global economy and the new jobs that were predicted to rule. It was this article that inspired me to use my GI Bill, find an online college, and pursue learning a new skill. There weren’t really any online degree programs back then that had anything to do with Cybersecurity or Digital Forensics, so I created my own by attending Iowa Central Community College…twice. The first time was to obtain my associate degree in Criminal Justice, and the second time in Computer Networking.
I was so excited when I finished that long four years of juggling my career, my family, and my education. I thought I would immediately find a job working for GBI as a computer forensics technician, but that wasn’t the case. I had two associate degrees, and everyone wanted a bachelors with experience. I felt so defeated and crushed. I had college loans for degrees that had nothing to do with my line of work at the fire department. My family life had suffered so much from working all the time, and closeting myself in my bedroom to study.
It wasn’t long after that when I decided to walk away from the Fire Department and take my chances in the private sector. I worked for a couple of years as a Network Analyst for a tire distribution center, but always felt as though something was missing. The mission didn’t mean anything to me. Everything was simply profit. I had lost the sense of giving back to my community, of making the world a better place for my kids.
I needed to fill that void and so began applying to the police department as a crime analyst. I couldn’t believe it when I got the call that I was hired! I was over the moon! I jumped into the job with every ounce of gusto I could muster. My mind was a sponge and I came home every night feeling exhausted and dizzy from cramming so much new information into my brain. I had no idea that the department meant to unleash me upon digital forensics until I had been working for 6 months, crunching crime data, producing intelligence products, building and maintaining the department intranet site, and tackling every random task I was given with enthusiasm. It finally happened! It practically landed in my lap!
I remember thinking that the universe had a strange sense of humor to have made me walk such a circuitous path, but I was grateful. I was grateful for all of the great mentors that life had put in my way and for the men and women who decided to take a chance and give me an opportunity to prove myself.
I jumped headfirst into learning everything I could about Digital Forensics. When I was at home relaxing, I was reading books about the subject. When I was in the car driving to or from work, I was listening to podcasts. At work, when I was between phone rips and intelligence reports, I was scouring the web for free training or attending webinars and zoom meetings. I wanted to saturate my brain with the topic and apply everything I was learning to my job. I met Andrew Rathbun in a Magnet Axiom class, and he introduced me to the AboutDFIR.com site and the Digital Forensics Discord Server. He and I opened up in chat and he directed me to so much information and so many people in the industry. I couldn’t believe how close knit the DFIR community seemed to be. Everyone was so willing to help and to talk. I was never made to feel as though my questions were amateur or naïve. It made me love the field even more.
It was that sense of people being so willing and eager to give back that made me decide to start this blog. Though I have yet to walk very far into the field, I wanted to use this site as a diary of my journey and perhaps help others who were following right behind me and jumping in with their clothes on. I only ask that you keep that hunger and never be afraid to ask questions, never be afraid to share something you’ve learned or experienced, and never give up on your dreams!
Some helpful places to begin:
The AboutDFIR website
The Digital Forensics Discord Server
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