As recently as 2016, Linares was attending College of DuPage, a community college in Chicago’s western suburbs, and assessing her next steps as an aspiring first-generation college graduate. Her parents, blue-collar factory and warehouse workers, were supportive. Her mom, who’d arrived in the United States as a refugee from Guatemala, was proud of her determined daughter. But Linares’ decision to transfer to DePaul—where, three years later, she earned a bachelor’s degree in network engineering and security from the School of Computing (SoC)—was sparked when she witnessed a malware attack while working a part-time job in customer support and database administration at a packaging supplies manufacturer.
“I sort of fell into the field,” says Linares. “But if you’re curious about solving complex problems, know your strengths and are open to learning constantly and working hard, it’s totally doable.”