May 07, 2024

Dave O’Donnell’s career journey from the print industry to the world of cybersecurity is a remarkable tale of hard work and determination. Starting in graphic arts, Dave’s career trajectory was altered by a back injury sustained while working as a printing press operator. This setback, however, did not deter him from forging ahead and carving out a new professional path.

Dave gained valuable experience in various corporate environments, from Best Buy to Office Max, and went on to spend two decades building the business at Cal Spas in Plymouth, MN, through strategic planning, leadership, and a knack for building meaningful relationships. Despite his success, he yearned for a career that would fully satisfy his puzzle and problem-solving skills, leading him to the exciting world of cybersecurity.

Supportive Faculty at Century College

Dave chose Century because of the College’s proximity to home, and affordable and flexible online classes. However, education wasn’t always Dave’s strong suit. He had hated high school, having failed an English class. Consequently, he worried about the prospect of taking required English courses.

He soon found that the personalized support and mentorship from faculty members like David Her, Kristy Livingston, and Mary Fernandez guided him through the maze of academia and reignited his passion for academia. English instructor Mary Fernandez, in particular, transformed his aversion to English classes into realizing he has strong writing skills.

“Mary is a tremendous teacher, and she taught me how to write,” he says. “She gave me the guidance I needed, and encouraged me to get into writing.

“Additionally, Marufu Lamidi, who handed me the Outstanding Student Award, was another positive influence.  We had numerous Zoom sessions, and he helped ensure I grasped the concepts of Ethical Hacking.”

Outstanding Student Award

As he progressed through the Cybersecurity, Forensics, and Information Assurance program at Century, Dave found himself drawn to helping his fellow students, leveraging his experience in troubleshooting from his previous jobs. He found the study of cybersecurity fascinating.

“Cybersecurity is a puzzle, and finding how hackers get into systems is fascinating. It’s a type of reverse engineering.” he muses. “I had so much fun in this program.”

All his hard work paid off when Dave received the program’s Outstanding Student Award, a moment he describes as a true sense of accomplishment. He credits his success to his organizational skills and ability to balance work and class schedules, which he likens to the age-old question of how to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.

Looking Ahead to New Career Challenges

Dave’s thirst for knowledge has been a hallmark of his career and personal life. Seven years ago, he took up the guitar and is now playing gigs in his spare time. He believes that continuous learning is essential, and that past setbacks do not define us.

Dave’s educational journey is a testament to the power of adaptability. The Century College faculty showed him that education is not one-size-fits-all, and their mentorship helped him achieve success.

Now, with a debt-free degree in hand, Dave looks forward to new challenges in the cybersecurity field, with consulting and entrepreneurship on the horizon. He has become a role model for his daughter and an inspiration to all those who believe that learning and growth do not have to follow a straight line.


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