How to Learn Online: Berlys Deardorff’s Secret to Succeeding in a Remote Learning Environment

“You can only learn so much from a book,” said Berlys Deardorff. A full-time college student currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, Berlys saw Penn Cybersecurity Boot Camp as a way to gain the hands-on experience she couldn’t find in a formal classroom setting. 

Berlys’ boot camp experience brought her one step closer to a fulfilling career in cybersecurity. Learn more about her journey and take a deep dive into the life of an online learner below! 

Making time for the boot camp

In addition to finishing up her bachelor’s degree online, Berlys also works full-time for a manufacturing company — building transformers that power the ejection seats on military jets. 

While she enjoys the work, a career in cybersecurity is her ultimate goal. 

With less than a year left in her cybersecurity degree, Berlys felt like she lacked the real-world experience many employers look for during the hiring process. Eager to advance her skill set, she decided that Penn Cybersecurity Boot Camp was worth adding to her to-do list. “That’s something I can put on my resume and use to talk about what I actually learned and did,” Berlys said. 

The benefits of online learning

As an experienced online learner, Berlys has always appreciated the advantages of fully remote instruction. “I work full-time, so getting my bachelor’s online just worked out for me,” she said. 

When the boot camp started, Berlys was attending class three nights a week. Then, COVID struck —  and the program quickly moved online. Berlys was unfazed by this rapid digital transformation. In fact, she welcomed the change.

“It was a complete benefit,” Berlys declared. “I love that the boot camp switched to online, because I live 45 minutes away from the facility and had to commute every other day. Gas, tolls, parking — it adds up.” 

In addition to easing her time constraints, the online boot camp made for a better, more engaging in-class experience. “If someone has a question, everyone can hear it,” Berlys said. The online classes also mirrored an in-class setting by using virtual “breakout rooms” for group work. 

Overall, a fully remote boot camp made it easier to connect with classmates and instructors. “Communicating is extremely important in cybersecurity,” shared Berlys. “To explain your projects to team members and supervisors, you really have to know what you’re talking about.” The boot camp’s remote setup meant getting in touch with team members or checking in with a professor during office hours was always a breeze. 

Adapting to a new normal 

The pandemic made remote work a necessity — which, in turn, made Berlys’s time more manageable. However, as COVID-19 spread its reach across the Northeast, a new slate of challenges came with it. 

Before the boot camp, Berlys had been a bartender. The pandemic (coupled with the boot camp’s added time constraints) forced her to find a new position with a more structured, nine-to-five schedule. Fitting in schoolwork, a full-time job, and a boot camp wasn’t easy, but Berlys is no stranger to hard work. “The program definitely presents you with a lot of information,” she said. “At first, it was really intimidating — but the more you immerse yourself in an environment where everyone wants to learn the same thing, the more comfortable you start to feel.”

The worsening pandemic also meant Berlys would be embarking on a new career during one of the toughest periods of social and economic unrest in recent history. Luckily, Berlys’s hard work and persistence helped her cut through a daily current of new obstacles. Halfway through the boot camp, Berlys received her first job offer in the cybersecurity field, citing the portfolio she built during the program and career service’s resume assistance as contributing factors. 

One step closer to a career in cybersecurity 

Through the boot camp, Berlys was able to explore terminals, learn commands, and work in a Linux environment with hands-on lesson plans and expert guidance — which she wasn’t getting from her college textbooks. “You’re probably not going to be employer ready with just a bachelor’s degree,” Berlys explained, echoing her initial inspiration for joining the boot camp. 

Committing to the boot camp process was also vital to Berlys’s success. “Teaching myself how to work in a Linux environment would have taken a lot of time that I don’t have,” Berlys explained. “I could probably have done it, but it’s much nicer to have somebody there pointing you in the right direction.” 

Berlys didn’t want to wait until she started her career to dive headfirst into the cybersecurity environment. “I learn by doing,” she said. “I never would have known half of the things I do now if I hadn’t done the boot camp.”

Looking for a change? Explore programs in coding, cybersecurity, data analysis, and fintech through Penn Boot Camps.  

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