Ever since he was a kid, Jonah Lang had proclaimed to family and friends that he would one day be a doctor. Years of watching Scrubs and House further solidified his conviction that this was the career path for him. During his senior year in high school, he applied to pre-med programs across the nation and was accepted to the University of Minnesota. Lang made the move from Texas and began the coursework that would kick off his medical career.
But a year into his studies, there was a problem. Lang woke up one morning in the fall of his sophomore year to a gut-wrenching realization: These classes were not a good fit.
“I was loaded up with these pre-med classes, and I was asking myself, ‘What am I doing? Why am I learning this?’” Lang remembers. “Everything came crashing down.”
He dropped some of his classes, and tumbled into a period of transition and frantic soul-searching. If he didn’t want to study medicine, then what was the alternative? Lang knew deep down that the reason he wanted to pursue a career in health care was because he wanted to help people. With that single clue, he set off on a journey to figure out what course of study would best align with his genuine interests while resonating with his drive to help others.
Designing a Degree
One other thing to know about Lang: He had a natural curiosity about technology. While he may have been watching a lot of Scrubs growing up, he was also playing a lot of computer games and putzing around with IT-related projects. It always seemed recreational to him, though, and so he never considered these interests valid in terms of academic study.
"I realized I could get all the things I wanted out of college in one major. I went from feeling completely hopeless about the rest of my college experience to mapping out every class I would take for the rest of my college career.”
All that changed when Lang discovered an individualized degree program that would allow him to build a degree that fit his unique interests. Through the Inter-College Program (ICP) at CCAPS, he learned that he could expand his education by casting a wide net to draw from coursework that bridged boundaries and opened new opportunities within the U of M system.
“Once I found out about CCAPS, everything kind of exploded for me because I realized that I had these business interests that had been aligned with pharmaceuticals and medical supplies in the past, and that these business interests were at the heart of what I was interested in,” Lang says. “I also realized that my interest in technology could intersect with my desire to help people if I studied cybersecurity.”
Lang changed his major to ICP and began meeting one-on-one with his advisor to plan his new course of study. He chose to weave together three areas: Business and Marketing, Information Technology Infrastructure (with a special focus on cyber risk), and Leadership.
“That’s when it started getting pretty real. I realized I could get all the things I wanted out of college in one major,” he says. “I went from feeling completely hopeless about the rest of my college experience to mapping out every class I would take for the rest of my college career.”
Applying His Degree to the Real World
“Cybersecurity is about going into organizations and advising them on what to look out for, helping them be prepared for the future,” Lang says. “That’s what really got me—the opportunity to help people prevent things that could end their company or lose them a lot of revenue. I knew it was what I wanted to focus on.”
With this new knowledge, Lang pursued real-world opportunities to apply freshly acquired computer science, business, and leadership skills during his senior year. He landed an internship with the Toro Company and gained valuable experience in project management, IT, and other business applications. The best part of that experience, though, was the networking. Lang pushed the envelope at Toro, always asking his colleagues what else he could do, what more could he learn. He made new friends and attracted mentors.
“I met as many people as I possibly could and, from day one, tried to learn about as many areas of the business as possible,” he says.
That internship paid him back tenfold. While he enjoyed the opportunity to apply his degree to the real world, he was also strengthening professional relationships—so much so that even after Lang’s internship was complete, the staff at Toro called him up to ask if he’d staff the Toro booth for a recruitment fair the company was attending at the Carlson School of Management. Lang agreed to help Toro out, and at the fair he just so happened to make new connections that led to a full-time job in cyber security.
“At the end of the fair, I walked around and visited with some of the other companies that were there. That’s when I ran into Deloitte,” Lang says. “I struck up a conversation with one of the employees who was a cyber risk consultant for the firm, and it really got me interested in applying for a job doing that very same thing.”
A few weeks later, Lang had applied for a job as a financial and cyber risk consultant with Deloitte, got an interview, and was offered a position shortly after. He will graduate this spring knowing that he’s got a job lined up. A good one, too—one that will allow him to do what he wanted to do from the start, help people.
“I’m very thankful,” he says. “I wouldn’t be where I am without my ICP advisor and my mentors at Toro.”
He smiles and admits, “I’m still shocked by the ways I have been blessed while pursuing my passions. After I shifted my direction, things just unfolded.”