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Cooper Varela

Meet Cooper Varela, a student at Laurel Ridge Community College.

Environmental portrait of Cooper Varela of Laurel Ridge Community College

(Answers have been edited for clarity and length)

Where are you from/where do you call home?

I was born in Louisiana but have called Berryville, Va., home for more than 6 years.  

What drew you to the cybersecurity field?

I always thought I was going to do something in computers, but when I discovered cybersecurity, I was drawn to the thought of fighting the growing cybersecurity threat.. I wanted to learn as much as I could so I could help stop  as many cyber attacks as possible.

Describe some useful takeaways you learned from CCI events.

I got two big takeaways from the CCI innovation Boot Camp in January 2021. 

The first was how to talk to a client and solve their issue all while in a group setting.

The second takeaway was that because of the event, I was able to land my first interview with a company. Even though I did not get an internship, having that experience led me to develop connections with CACI and eventually try again the next year.

I probably would have not applied again if it were not for running into the same CACI employee who interviewed me at a different CCI-sponsored event, telling me that I should reapply next year.  

What do you hope to learn as an intern?

I get to work with an amazing company and have the opportunity to be a part of a really exciting project.

As a summer 2023 CACI intern, I hope to both learn new WiFi penetration technology and how to work in a corporate environment. 

What’s the best advice you’d give to students or career changers interested in the cybersecurity field?

Get connected. Join groups, clubs, organizations, whatever you need to connect with other people in the field. 

There are always events going on about cybersecurity — summits, talks, webinars you name it — you just need to capitalize on them. 

If your school doesn't have a cybersecurity  club or group, make one. My school did not have a formal cybersecurity club, so I got together with the head of cybersecurity and some students, and we started a cybersecurity club.