KENNESAW, Ga. | May 15, 2023
Monica Cotton is making waves in the field of cybersecurity. As she prepares to graduate this summer with a Master of Science in Cybersecurity, she has already secured an internship in the cybersecurity department of internet radio giant iHeart Radio.
As an intern, Cotton will work under the Director of IT Governance, Risk and Compliance. Her primary responsibilities include working with privacy data and participating in incident response threat mitigation activities.
Cotton’s journey into cybersecurity has been unconventional. She received her bachelor’s degree in public relations with a minor in marketing from University of West Georgia, but a passion for cybersecurity led her to pursue a master’s in cybersecurity at KSU. Coming from a non-technical background and taking a leap of faith into cybersecurity has been a challenge worth pursuing for Cotton.
“This opportunity is life-changing for me,” said Cotton. “I’m thankful that iHeart decided to bet on me and give me the amazing opportunity to learn and work with them.”
As a top student in the cybersecurity program, Cotton was selected to attend the National Women in Cybersecurity conference in Denver earlier this year, where she connected and learned with other women in the cybersecurity field. Women make up only 25 percent of the global workforce in cybersecurity and just 11 percent of leadership roles. Cotton believes events like the conference are necessary for women to succeed in this male-dominated industry.
“It was inspiring hearing the keynotes tell their stories and participating in workshops,” said Cotton, “And networking with other women made me more confident that I chose the right path. I met some amazing women I am still connected to. I received career advice from true professionals in the field. The experience overall was amazing.”
Monica aims to bring these kinds of genuine connections to the KSU campus. She is a founding member of the Women in Cybersecurity Club at KSU, an organization dedicated to connecting and empowering women in cybersecurity. The club provides students with professional development sessions, networking and mentorship, and career panels to preparing them to take the next steps in their journeys.
“I wanted to start a community for women on campus,” said Cotton. “Specifically, for women looking to break into tech but who don’t know how to start. Sharing knowledge and resources can have the biggest impact on someone. Our chapter was built to provide a safe haven for women to connect and learn from each other.”
In addition to her involvement with Women in Cybersecurity, Cotton has been working as a graduate research assistant with Dr. Mia Plachinova, assistant professor of information security and assurance, since last fall. Cotton has become instrumental in Plachinova’s research on critical infrastructure security and data breach notifications.
“Monica is passionate about cybersecurity and is making a difference by helping others in the field,” said Plachinova. “She is actively involved in mentoring other women interested in cybersecurity and encourages them to pursue their goals. I am confident that her dedication and efforts are going to make a positive impact in the field.”
Cotton credits much of her success as a student and burgeoning cybersecurity professional to Plachinova’s influence.
“She has made a great impact on my educational and professional life,” said Cotton. “Just like myself, Dr. Mia started her cybersecurity journey with a non-technical background. I’ve learned a lot from her and our research together, she has inspired me to go for my doctorate in the next few years. If it wasn’t for Dr. Mia, my cybersecurity journey would’ve been different.”
With her internship at iHeart Radio, Cotton is well on her way to achieving her goal of securing a full-time position in cybersecurity. Cotton’s commitment to empowering and supporting other women in the field demonstrates her desire to create a more inclusive and diverse cybersecurity community.