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CCN Focus Feature: Dr. Diego Tibaquira, Miami Dade College

Dr. Diego Tibaquira, professor of Computer Science with concentration in Cybersecurity and Cloud Computing

For the past two years, the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) has featured blogs that introduced some of our professors and instructors in the Convergence College Network (CCN) community. The CCN is a select cohort of community colleges and universities from across the country that connects IT educators with a wealth of resources to enhance their programs. In this week’s Q&A blog, we’re featuring Dr. Diego Tibaquira, professor of Computer Science with concentration in Cybersecurity and Cloud Computing.

What do you teach? I teach Computer Science with a Concentration in Cybersecurity and Cloud Computing.

How long have you been a teacher? I have been teaching at Miami Dade College for 17 years.

Did you have a job in industry before you became a teacher? My experience in the industry field includes working for the federal government in Washington, DC as an Information Security Specialist with a secret security clearance, and for PEPSICO as a Data Analyst. I also served eight years in the United States Marine as a Network/Systems Administrator.

What sparked your interest in teaching? After high school, I attended City College of New York, but after two and a half years I dropped out to join the Marines. I didn’t have a clear path and wasn’t sure of my career field. After getting stationed in Cherry Point, North Carolina, I realized I needed to go back to school and further my education. I enrolled in Craven Community College and obtained my first degree, an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Networking Technology. I did an extra year of school there and transferred to the University North Carolina of Greensboro. At Craven Community College, my professors were strict but kind and helpful. The professors showed me a path to success and encouraged me to obtain industry certifications related to my classes and field to improve my knowledge and chances of getting a job. When the opportunity arose of teaching at Miami Dade College, I remembered the way my professors at Craven were, and I wanted to provide the same for my students.

Dr. Tibaquira (first person on the right) standing with other members in the Cybersecurity Club at Miami Dade College.

What is the secret to successfully teaching IT to students? For me, it is a personal experience. I went through the same course work while pursuing my AAS degree I fully understand what the students are going through. Also, by knowing that I went through the same, my students are willing to trust my process and that I want the best for them. I am continuing to obtain industry certifications. I have worked in the field in different areas, mastering the employment seeking arena; therefore, I understand what is necessary to be competitive in the job market in order to be successful and become employed. I understanding the importance of soft skills to add to our IT skills. I know that my students need more than just classroom lectures, but an example to follow. If this kid raised in the Bronx, New York has been able to make it, then, they can as well.

What’s the biggest challenge teaching IT? IT is ever changing and making sure that we stay current and are teaching our students the latest and greatest so they can be competitive in the job market of today.

What advice would you give an IT student about to graduate and enter the workforce? Work on your soft skills; they are just as important. Learn to work in teams because that is how industry works. Get industry certifications to back up your degree and knowledge. Never stop learning; become a member of blogs or computer societies; and stay abreast of current technology trends.

IT is always changing – how do you keep up with the ongoing evolution of IT? I’m a Senior member of IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. I register to blogs and other computer societies as well. And I continue to get industry certifications and keep training on being a better professor.

How do you see the IT landscape changing in the next five years? Cybersecurity, cloud computing and artificial intelligence will become the front running technologies and they will apply to most of the work that we do. Regardless of field or concentration, these three technologies will become a crucial component of not only IT but our world.

Mr. Elias Marcet, a student of Dr. Tibaquira, is the founding President of the Cybersecurity Club at Miami Dade College (MDC). He has enrolled in the newly launched Bachelor program in Cybersecurity at MDC and has obtained a number of certifications.

What’s your favorite recent student success story? Mr. Elias Marcet came to my Security+ class in spring 2019 with a vague idea of what he wanted to do. Since my final exam is the actual industry certification, Elias became Security+ certified. Later in the fall of 2019, Elias followed me to the first Cloud Essential course, and by the end of the semester he became CompTIA Cloud Essential certified and AWS Cloud Practitioner certified. In that same semester, I approached Elias to become the founding President of the Cybersecurity Club on campus and to become a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (I advise both). Elias went on to obtain three more industry certifications in other classes with me. He completed his Cloud certificate and enrolled in the newly launched Bachelor program in Cybersecurity. He was working full time the entire time and in 2020 got a better job with Amazon. Based on all his work and dedication, I encouraged and guided Elias to apply for multiple scholarships, and this week, Elias finished recording his speech for the Association of Community College Trustees’ (ACCT) Leadership Congress, the “premier annual conference for community college leaders and the only national conference dedicated to community college trustees.” That event will be held October 14 in San Diego, California. Elias was selected unanimously as the speaker amongst all the workforce students in the US.

Elias trusts the process and sees the potential that industry certification and completing his degree will bring to his life. He understands the purpose of the hard work by dedicating more time to his schooling and maximizing his opportunities. At the beginning there was more of a push, but after a couple of classes and certifications, Elias understood the opportunities that were in front of him. It was constant work to make sure he stayed the course and stayed motivated and believed in himself. Elias was working full time when he started the program but wanted a better job and a career.

Editor’s note: Dr. Tibaquira has obtained a number of industry certifications, including Certified Ethical Hacker and AWS Solutions Architect. He believes pursuing certifications like these are essential to staying current in IT.

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