Ever since he was a kid, Hunter Schwartz was destined for a career in technology. He would come home after school to hunker down with his Playstation to play video games, modify the hardware and software functionalities, or both. He fondly remembers doing these “mods” to the Playstation and even his iPhone—there was so much excitement in taking something apart, analyzing the components, and putting it together in a new way. Such technological dissections are early rites of passage for most computer science or IT professionals. Hunter was no exception.
“It’s what got me hooked on technology,” he says. “I understood how computer systems worked, so I figured that’s what I’d study in college.”
But technology is a vast and complex field, and although Hunter loved modding game consoles, he had no idea how that would translate to a professional niche. When he graduated from high school, he figured he’d study computer science and computer programming because it was what many peers were pursuing. He began his college career in earnest at Iowa State University, but floundered there. Neither the school nor the courses he took resonated with him, and his grades suffered as a result.
After some deep thought, Hunter turned to his parents for guidance. Both of them had earned degrees from the University of Minnesota, and because the apple sometimes doesn’t land too far from the tree, Hunter opted to transfer to the U of M as well. Once accepted, he explored all the IT-related majors available to him. One program caught his attention: the Information Technology Infrastructure (ITI) program.
“I’m the type of person who needs to know how I can apply what I learn,” Hunter says. “The ITI major gave me access to instructors who were working full-time in the industry and teaching at night. I’ve found that what I learn applies directly to the real world. The night classes also work really well with my schedule because I’m a night owl. ITI was a perfect fit.”
A Secure Future
With some core ITI courses under his belt, Hunter turned his attention to the six tracks available in the major and chose one on which to focus his efforts: security. Considering employers’ great need for data security specialists now and in the future, the choice to concentrate on this path was a smart choice. And with his natural curiosity in behind-the-scenes circuitry and systems, Hunter excelled in his courses. He cites Security I as a course that was especially compelling, for it taught him about ethical hacking and enabled him to think like an attacker.
“I think my interest in modifying my Playstation when I was in high school ultimately got me interested in security,” Hunter says. “Vulnerabilities in software and hardware would be classified as security issues, and that’s essentially what I was playing around with back then.”
That authentic playfulness has bloomed into an academic focus and a promising career path for Hunter. He is now interning with Securian Financial, completing a rotation in the office to learn about servers and storage; infrastructure and operations; and now cybersecurity. Hunter says that this real-life experience has been very enjoyable and has prepared him for whatever comes next by exposing him to valuable on-the-job experience.
With his ITI coursework and even some supplemental security certifications in hand, Hunter is poised to graduate in December. When asked what he plans to do with his ITI degree, he has a few ideas. Though he’s studied security in-depth, Hunter plans to do anything but play it safe after graduation. He says his dream job would be to work for the National Security Agency, spending his days building exploits for computer systems. In the same breath, he notes that he dreams of living in New Zealand, working remote somewhere exotic.
With no shortage of confidence of what’s possible with his ITI degree, Hunter offers advice for others who may be searching for a path of their own: “Explore your options,” he says. “The more you’re exposed to, the more ideas you have.”