Graduate school hacks: hands-on experiences and growing a network

Contact: Cindy Wagner

Mangay Perambalam, B.B.A.’21

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—As a Western Michigan University graduate student in cybersecurity, Mangay Perambalam, B.B.A.’21, credits an array of influencers for her success, including WMU faculty members and other students as well as industry experts who have shared knowledge, inspiration and mentorship.

“The exceptional faculty members at WMU have been instrumental in my academic progress and have created a vast network of fellow students, alumni and industry professionals,” says Perambalam. “This constellation of influencers includes the wider cybersecurity community, industry professionals, thought leaders and mentors who have shaped my career plans and propelled me toward success.”

And her success starts with gaining real-world experience. She chose WMU’s Master of Science in cybersecurity in part because of the hands-on practice, teamwork among students, certifications, and in-class theory and application that blends technical expertise, ethical principles and strategic thinking.

“My favorite experience so far was an exhilarating opportunity to ethically hack into my own system,” says Perambalam. “I was challenged to apply my knowledge of security concepts and vulnerabilities and defend against attacks. The sense of accomplishment I felt upon successfully infiltrating a system, capturing the flag and earning recognition from my professors and peers has been unparalleled.”

Perambalam came to cybersecurity after studying business as an undergraduate She completed her first two years at Sunway University in Malaysia before transferring to Westerm to earn a bachelor’s degree in marketing. As an international student, Perambalam met all the challenges of moving to a new country and new educational system with the support of WMU.

“WMU's welcoming and inclusive environment has played a pivotal role in supporting my international student experience,” says Perambalam. “The University's dedicated resources, such as international student advisors, cultural programs and academic support services, have fostered a sense of belonging and facilitated a smooth transition into a new educational system and culture.”

As an undergraduate, Perambalam completed several internships where she was exposed to the challenges of information technology and cybersecurity, sparking her intrigue with the field and desire to pursue a graduate degree in cybersecurity.

“There are great developments in cybersecurity—artificial intelligence, machine learning and the internet of things—yet we still face some difficulties, including the rapid development of cyber dangers and a shortage of qualified cybersecurity experts,” says Perambalam. “Attackers are always changing their tactics and taking advantage of new weaknesses. Continuous learning and staying ahead of the curve are required to keep up with these ever-changing dangers.”

So, what does the future hold for this cyber-sleuth?

As she completes her master's degree in 2024, Perambalam plans to enter the field and use her expertise to help organizations stay safe digitally. She seeks a role where she can apply her academic knowledge to actual situations, pick the brains of seasoned experts and gain more useful practical experience.

“The prospect of using cybersecurity to safeguard sensitive information and defend enterprises against cyberattacks is what interests me the most,” says Perambalam. “There is a range of opportunities in the field and since cyber threats and defense tactics are continually changing, there are many options for career advancement and specialization.”

Curious where Perambalam will land following her graduation in spring 2024? Follow her on LinkedIn

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