After spending six years as a sonar technician in the United States Navy, Brian Addesso turned his attention to detecting new opportunities above ground.
"When I was exploring my options to go back to school or stay in the military, I was looking at different degree programs," he said. "I knew I wanted to do something computer-related because I did some of that while I was in the Navy."
Addesso, 36, returned home to the Detroit area and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense from Eastern Michigan University in May 2019. Using tuition benefits from the GI Bill, he finished his degree program with a 4.0 GPA.
"The security thing appealed to me," he said. "I am a little older, so I grew up with the proliferation of the internet. It always fascinated me.
"Then, I found out Eastern had one of the top-ranked programs in the country in that area of study and is right in my backyard. I grew up in Redford."
Now, Addesso is a full-time student enrolled in a Master of Science in Information Systems program at another university. He plans to graduate in April 2020.
"I am still trying to decide if I want to go back and work for the government," he said. "That combination of degrees and active security clearance could probably get me into some fun jobs.
"Ford and GM are definitely hiring because of the autonomous vehicle programs and smart vehicles. If I decide to stay here, that's something I would pursue."
After graduating from high school, Addesso worked primarily in the restaurant industry until he enlisted in the Navy in January 2011.
He spent the majority of his military career aboard the USS Roosevelt in Jacksonville, Florida, where he developed strong communication and leadership skills and achieved the rank of Petty Officer First Class. His service also made it possible to earn a degree.
"It was a long time coming. I joined the military at 28 to go back to college, because I didn't have the means to do it myself," he said. "By the time I got done with school, it was eight or nine years down the road. It was a long process."
His mother, Anne, earned a bachelor's degree in hospitality management from EMU when he was in high school. By the time he enrolled at EMU, undergrads had the option to study both on campus and online. Addesso completed most of his coursework at the Ypsilanti campus, but found he enjoyed learning online the most.
"If I had class on campus at 9 a.m., I had to be there at 9 a.m." he said. "Doing online classes saved me 20 minutes each way going to class, so it was almost an extra hour a day I saved by not going in, setting my own schedule and doing work. If I wasn't feeling like doing it at 9 a.m., I could do it later. … That flexibility was awesome."
IA 455: Incident Response, taught by Chris Krieger, was his favorite course in the BS in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense program.
"For the final, he literally gave us a whole bunch of information, and we had to use pretty much everything we learned in the entire major thus far to go back and reconstruct an event," he said.
In addition to the valuable information and knowledge Addesso gained in the program, adaptability was one of the most important lessons he learned.
"You should be prepared to figure things out for yourself," he said. "There is no way you are going to know every single hardware and software. There is so much technology coming out. You are going to have to develop the skill to be able to find resources, find instructions, figure things out on your own and make it all work."
Addesso completed his EMU journey by walking the graduation stage in the Spring 2019 commencement ceremony before enrolling in his master's program.
While he was happy to earn his bachelor's degree, he quickly focused on achieving his next goal.
"My family and I kind of postponed all of the celebrations until the master's degree is finished. When I decided I had enough money in the GI Bill to go for a second degree, I didn't want to count my chickens before they hatched."
However, Addesso believes he would have done fine had he gone straight into the job market after graduating from EMU.
"I haven't heard anybody from our program have trouble getting a job," he said. "I don't think it would be an issue at all. I am starting to feel out what I am qualified for and what's out there in my area. There are all sorts of job openings in IT that I think I would have a good basis to get into with my degree from Eastern."
No matter which direction Addesso takes his civilian career, he believes his bachelor's degree program has prepared him to handle most anything — even in a rapidly changing digital landscape.
"The program at Eastern covers a wide breadth of topics very well," he said. "To really get into the thick of cyber security, you have to know networking, system administration and a lot of little different things.
"Cyber security is kind of a new thing they just started creating positions for — you could be a network guy, a system admin guy, an administrative response guy. This degree program covers a lot and sets you up to go into a variety of different professions."Learn more about the EMU online Bachelor of Science in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense program.
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