Cybersecurity Guest Experts

Flatiron School regularly invites guest experts so that students can hear about their field experiences and learn from industry leaders. 

Here are some examples of Cybersecurity guest experts that visited recent cohorts:

Jessica Robinson, Founder & CEO at PurePoint International

Jessica Robinson is the Founder and Executive Officer of PurePoint International, a cybersecurity firm.

Headquartered in New York City, PurePoint helps CEOs prevent data breaches by bridging the gap between data security, cyber risk, and privacy. The company provides training and outsourced Principal Information Security Officer (PISO) consulting services, and cyber technology solutions, and conducts risk assessments and employee training on cyber and physical security, privacy, information protection, and threat prevention.

She is also the Head Visionary of the brand Consciously Secure Living (CSL), a subsidiary of PurePoint aimed at supporting leaders and helping create security for vulnerable and underrepresented populations, including people of color, women, and Black communities.

Phillip Wylie, Senior Penetration Tester at US Bank

Phillip Wylie is a published author, keynote speaker, and an “offensive security professional” with over 25 years of information technology and cybersecurity experience. 

He is currently a Hacker In Residence at CyCognito, a Member of the Board of Advisors for WEBGAP, and The Hacker Factory Podcast Host at ITSP Magazine.

His specialties include penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, application security, threat, and vulnerability management. 

Seema Kathuria, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Duo Security

Seema Kathuria, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Duo Security, has been marketing IT Cybersecurity, Identity and Access Management, and Compliance solutions for 15+ years. 

Her work entails partnering “with Product Management, Go-To-Market, Business Development, Sales, and Customer Success teams to bring solutions to market” and understanding customers’ business objectives and security challenges. 

Seema regularly takes courses to refresh her marketing and cybersecurity knowledge and has five cybersecurity and computer science-related degrees, including a Certificate from Harvard University. 

Ruchira Pokhriyal, Security Specialist at Amazon Web Services

Ruchira Pokhriyal is a Security Specialist at Amazon Web Services, focusing on threat detection and incident response. She also serves as an Advisory Board Member for BBWIC Foundation and Community Speaker for the Virtually Testing Foundation. 

She has two master’s degrees, one in Cybersecurity and one in Computer science, and is an AccessData Certified Forensic Examiner (ACE V6) and a certified AWS Solutions Architect. 

Ruchira advocates for Diversity and Inclusion-specifically, LGBTQ+ visibility, Gender Parity, Neurodiversity & Women of Color in STEM.

Learn From The Best

If you want a career in Cybersecurity just like these guest experts, consider an accelerated Cybersecurity program to get your career started. 

Flatiron School programs are taught by industry professionals with hands-on experience in the topics that they teach, so Cybersecurity learners develop real-world, in-demand skill sets that set them up for success.

Don’t wait to change your life – Apply Now
Disclaimer: Information in this blog is current as of January 13, 2023. For more information, visit

Carla Stickler: From Broadway Star To Software Engineer

Carla Stickler, a Fall 2019 Software Engineering graduate from Flatiron School, describes herself as a professional multi-hyphenate. After spending more than 10 years performing in Broadway musicals such as Wicked, Mamma Mia!, and The Sound of Music, her desire for stability, a better work-life balance, and a chance encounter with an old friend led her to tech.

She shares her journey from Broadway Star to Software Engineer below.

A Burned Out Broadway Star

By the end of 2018, Carla Stickler had already had what many would consider to be a dream career. She’d found success in the arts – a difficult feat no matter the medium – and performed on Broadway stages in world-famous musicals such as Wicked, Mamma Mia!, and The Sound of Music. 

But, Carla said, the continuous grind needed to reach that level of success had begun wearing on her.

“From the outside, it looked like I was living it up. However, after performing eight shows a week almost non-stop for about a decade, I was burned out,” she said. “I was spending more time managing injuries than having any sort of a life, missing weddings, birthdays, holidays with my family, and weekend BBQs. I struggled to maintain friendships outside of work as I basically lived at the theater.”

 To take a break from the stage (and dancing and four-inch heels), Carla earned a Master’s Degree in Education and worked as a voice teacher while moonlighting at the Wicked Broadway company to fill in for vacancies. The grind, however, didn’t slow down.

“I was hustling to get enough actor weeks to qualify for health insurance through the union and to find enough voice students to pay my bills,” Carla said. “All I wanted was a steady paycheck, a social life, and my body to stop hurting all the time. I couldn’t figure out why that was so hard to achieve in the arts.”

The Inciting Incident

Carla recalls knowing that she needed to make a change for a while, but a chance encounter at her 35th birthday party finally spurred her to act. 

“A friend showed up to my party and announced, ‘I’m a software engineer now and I just got a great job making more money than I’ve ever made with health insurance and a 401k!’ I was confused, since last I checked, he was a composer writing musicals,” she mused. “I held him captive for the next 30 minutes asking him how he did it and what exactly software engineering was. He told me he went to the Flatiron School and learned to code.”

Several weeks and a few google searches later, Carla enrolled in a twice-weekly front-end development course* at Flatiron School.

“I wanted to see if I really enjoyed [Software Engineering],” Carla explained. “I got hooked and decided to attend Flatiron’s Immersive Software Engineering Bootcamp at their [New York City campus] the next summer and to change my life with code!”

Scene Change: Flatiron School

For Carla, Flatiron School’s community was a critical part of the experience.

“Flatiron was reminiscent of my time at performing arts summer camp. It was intense and overwhelming, but we were all in it together, with a common goal to learn a new skill set so we could change our lives,” she explained. “The folks in my cohort quickly became life-long friends. We supported each other by celebrating our wins and providing encouragement for those struggling to keep up.”

Her cohort supported one another throughout their time in the program and participated in a weekly tradition known as “Feelings Friday” to recognize and cheer one another on. 

“We would sit in a circle and everyone would get a chance to talk about what we had struggled through that week, or talk about a win we’d had. We would all snap our fingers when someone was finished as if to say, ‘You are not alone. I am right there with you, feeling the same imposter syndrome, terrified about whether or not I’ve made the right decision. But we can do this crazy thing’”, Carla explained. “Flatiron had a way of building a community that made our struggles seem manageable. We were all going through this journey together and knew that for this thing to succeed, we all needed to succeed.”

Pulled Back By Broadway

When the Wicked production company reached out for an emergency backfill for a sick actor halfway through the JavaScript portion of the course, Carla managed to fulfill both obligations. 

“I spent three weeks coding from 9-5 while also performing on Broadway evenings and weekends. I was so excited about learning to code that I’d spend intermission and the time between scenes, in the dressing room, coding. It was an intense few weeks,” she said. “But if I could pass my javascript tests while also doing Wicked, I could do anything.”

Through the course, Carla learned something about coding that she hadn’t expected – it was creative. 

“No one ever tells you, or at least no one ever told me, that software engineering is creative. It’s complex and requires the ability to imagine something that doesn’t yet exist and create it using code. The similarities between coding and art amazed and inspired me.”

In addition to her enjoyment of the material, the successes of others in the school assured her that she had made the right choice in attending Flatiron School.

“Our teachers were an inspiration, as many of them had gone through the program and already seemed light years ahead of us. When we heard about friends finishing the program and quickly landing a new job, we knew we had chosen the right path.”

Job Searching During The Pandemic

Carla graduated from Flatiron School at the end of 2019, just a few short months before the beginning of the COVID pandemic. She credits Career Services with keeping her moving forward in her job search, even in the face of an unprecedented year like 2020.

“While everyone was on a hiring freeze, I worked with my career coach and continued learning on my own and taking classes online to keep my skills fresh,” she said. “Having a structure for how to proceed helped remove some of the unknowns about getting a job. The weekly blog posts, continued self-learning, and spreadsheet that tracked all the people I was reaching out to could be overwhelming at times, but I look back on all the hard work I did and I see how it paid off.”

Despite all of the hard work Carla put in with her career coach after graduating, the pandemic raged on, severely limiting her prospects as the world shut down and companies did damage control. 

“I had a few interviews that ended with being told how much they wished they could hire me, but unfortunately, they couldn’t take on junior devs at that moment.”

Pursuing A Tech-Adjacent Role

Determined to break into tech one way or another, Carla pivoted into searching for tech-adjacent roles.

“Learning to code proved that I could pick up skills fast and that having a job in tech was better than not having a job in tech,” she said. “I started looking at customer success and solutions engineering roles where I could flex my soft skills and build up my experience in the field.” 

This time, she found success and in mid-2020 took a job as a Customer Success Associate at a startup in NYC. Looking back, she does not lament the fact that her first post-Flatiron job was tech-adjacent and instead highlights that it actually checked most of the boxes that were empty in her previous career field. 

“It’s important for folks getting into a new field to really think about what’s most valuable to them when they finish a bootcamp,” she said. “Spending a year as a Success Associate allowed me the comfort of having a stable income, health insurance, and remote work so my husband and I could leave New York and buy a house in Chicago. This job, while not what I had intended, gave me a lot of what I was looking for.”

Carla also stresses the importance of stepping stones, and not putting too much pressure on finding the perfect first job.

“Your first job does not have to be your forever job. It doesn’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to love it,” she said. “The first job is to get your foot in the door, start building your resume, have experience working in an agile environment, learn how to communicate over Slack, and just exist in this new industry.”

Landing Her First Engineering Gig

After moving to Chicago, Carla resumed her search for a software engineering position and accepted a position as a Junior Software Engineer at G2. The difference the past years have made, she said, is almost indescribable. 

“I cannot begin to tell you the number of things I’ve learned in the past year and the amount of confidence I’ve gained as a developer. The imposter syndrome never really goes away, but I’m better suited now to quiet the voices that tell me I can’t or I shouldn’t, because I’ve proved that I can and I did.”

Despite the grind it took to get her to her current position and the hurdles along the way, Carla is thriving. 

“It might’ve taken me longer than expected, but I love my job and couldn’t be more grateful for the life that attending Flatiron and learning to code has provided for me.”

Ready For A Change, Just Like Carla Stickler?

Ready to take charge of your future? Apply Now to join other career changers like Carla Stickler in a program that sets you apart from the competition. 

Not ready to apply? Try out our Free Software Engineering Prep. Or, review the Software Engineering Course Syllabus that will set you up for success and can help launch you into a new and fulfilling career.

Read more stories about successful career changes on the Flatiron School blog.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of 06 January 2023. For updated information visit

*Course no longer offered

Jillian Short: From The Arts To Tech

Jillian Short, a May 2021 Software Engineering Flatiron School graduate and an Associate Customer Solutions Engineer at Rocket Software, had a career in the arts until the COVID-19 pandemic short-circuited the industry and forced her to pivot.

She shares her journey from the arts to tech by way of Flatiron School below.

What is your background and why did you choose to attend Flatiron?

My background is in the arts. I started in theatre as a stage manager and worked as a production assistant for small film projects and music venues. I was a barista at a high-end coffee house (we’re talking real coffee pros here), and a bartender for a couple of years. Then I moved into an executive assistant role. I’ve done lots of different things in life. 

When the pandemic hit, live events weren’t happening, and my executive assistant job was wearing on me pretty intensely. I took a trip with my partner to visit his family, and his sibling recommended giving coding a try. 

A cheap Udemy course turned into looking at Bootcamps, and then I started at Flatiron. 

The hope was to find a remote job that was more fulfilling, paid what I knew I was worth making and had more security (30 is right around the corner and I’d love to buy a house and be able to retire someday!)

How do you like working as an engineer?

I love it! I was honestly really nervous when I started. I struggled with imposter syndrome endlessly while I was attending Flatiron, especially when I started my job search. I never felt like I could be good enough to do this professionally, but here I am! 

I love the team I’m on, being able to work remotely, and the learning opportunities. It’s been a great transition and I couldn’t be more grateful that I found some courage and just went for it.

Walk me through a “day in the life” of your job.

Every morning we have a meeting with the entire team to go over what we’re working on/any questions folks have about something they’re working on. Then I jump into my edits with the flow being something like this:

New or updated requirements are sent in and assigned. 

When something is assigned to me, I read through those requirements and estimate how long coding will take me (and ask for a meeting if I need clarification on anything). 

Then I get coding! And usually, somewhere in here, I’ll ask someone else on my team for help if I bump into problems or questions.

Once I feel like my code is running well in the tool we build in, I’ll take it to our testing platform and run a test. Then I read the report, and if I see issues I fix them and test again. Once I don’t see any problems in the report, I send the information to the lead and wait for feedback. 

I’ll update and repeat the above testing steps if more changes are needed. Otherwise, we test for about a week, and then the code is added to production. 

How does the reality of working as a software engineer contrast to what you thought it would be like?

It’s way more fun than I thought it would be, honestly. I have a handful of friends who work as engineers in varying capacities, and they also love their jobs, but I wasn’t sure if I would feel the same way. I’m happy to report that it’s been two months and I’m still having a great time. 

What do you wish you’d known before getting started in your field post-Flatiron School?

I wish I’d had more practice with Github. We used it, but I would have loved to practice with it more, and have scenarios where we can practice using Github as if we were contributing on a team.

Any advice for current students?

Pair program all the time. I wish I had done that a lot more. 

Talk through your code always. I’m terrible at talking through code and it’s because I didn’t say what I was doing out loud enough. 

Network more than you think you need to. In the end, that’s probably what will give you the job.

Inspired by Jillian Short’s story?

Ready to take charge of your future? Apply Now to join other career changers like Jillian Short in a program that sets you apart from the competition. 

Not ready to apply? Try out our Free Software Engineering Prep. Or, review the Software Engineering Course Syllabus that will set you up for success and launch you into a new and fulfilling career.

Read more stories about successful career changes on the Flatiron School blog.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of 05 December 2022. For updated information visit

Bani Phul-Anand: From Beauty To Product Design

Bani Phul-Anand, a Lead Instructor of Product Design at Flatiron School, has more than 12 years of experience in Product Design. She began her career in luxury beauty and fashion, but a pivot into tech eventually led her to a career in Product Design. 

Bani shares her journey from beauty and fashion to Product Design below.

Give me an overview of your experience – where did you start and how did you get where you are today?

I started out as a Graphic Designer/Art Director in luxury beauty and fashion (Estee Lauder, Loreal, Avon).

Next, I made my way to Amazon as a Creative Director, which is where I was exposed to UX / UI Design for the first time. I took a bootcamp to brush up on my UX / UI skills and moved on to freelance for clients including Fordham University and a startup called MealPal, which is based in New York City. 

I taught design as an Adjunct Professor at the New York Institute of Technology for more than 8 years, then moved to Flatiron School just under 4 years ago.

What are some notable projects you’ve worked on?

Fordham University’s cross-functional dashboard/portal.

Do you have any advice for current or prospective Product Design students?

Practice more than you think you need to – that’s the only thing that will make you better at what you do. But don’t get stuck on tools or software, they change. And don’t be precious with your work – seek criticism, not validation.

Inspired by Bani Phul-Anand and her career pivot story? Apply Today to Flatiron School’s Product Design Course to take charge of your future in as little as 15 weeks.

Not ready to apply? Book a 10-minute chat with admissions to see if you qualify, or test-drive the material with Product Design Prep

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of 02 September 2022. For updated information visit