- Major: Computer Information Systems
- Class Of: 2015
“ I had to fight and struggle with life-and-death situations, and finally I’m graduating college. ”
Over the summer, a well-known retailer asked the Department of Homeland Security to run a basic network security check of its systems, and the technician performing the test offered intern Jade Joubi a peek into the procedure.
Confidential customer data was retrieved and filled the monitor in a disturbingly short time. Similar scenarios were played out during Joubi’s internship with the DHS’s National Cybersecurity Assessment and Technical Services division.
“I didn’t even know companies archived some of the information,” the Cal Poly Pomona computer information systems student said. “It was like, ‘How’d they get that? I don’t remember giving it out.’ It’s scary and interesting at the same time.”
The data penetration testing incident is as much as Joubi is allowed to disclose about his time as a cybersecurity intern. Joubi said he also helped program a game to assess an individual’s cybersecurity knowledge, but could only describe it as being “similar to ‘Jeopardy!’ ”
Joubi was a longshot for the Washington, D.C., internship because he was still a quarter away from earning his bachelor’s and it was only open to grad students. Even more specific, grad students enrolled in the CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service program, another qualification he lacked.
A friend’s wife who previously interned with DHS was able to help Joubi get his foot in the door, but a combination of impressing at the interview and glowing recommendations from references sealed the deal. He headed East, where he says adjusting to the Washington lifestyle was tougher than the work.
“They wanted us to build a website and I already knew HTML. A lot of the skills I learned at Cal Poly Pomona translated over,” Joubi said. “What I really got out of this internship was that I was able to come in with a foundation and it really built on it.”
Joubi’s go-to strategy when he hit a snag was to ask questions of the veteran cybersecurity personnel. When the internship concluded, his final question to his supervisor was if there was any regret about bringing in an undergrad. The reply was a resounding, “No!”
Professor Gregory Carlton taught Joubi in several classes, including CIS 481, a course dedicated to computer forensics. Carlton had a chance to see some of the work Joubi did for DHS.
“It was quite impressive for someone that hasn’t completed a degree yet to be able to take part in the internship and accomplish these types of activities,” Carlton said.
He noted that Joubi sat front-and-center in both classes, excelling in each subject. Carlton found out on the first day of CIS 305 why such an outstanding student had yet to complete a degree after nearly a decade at Cal Poly Pomona.
“At the beginning of the quarter, he came to me and said he has cancer and if he misses a class it’s not because he’s cutting,” Carlton said.
Joubi was diagnosed with leukemia two quarters into his freshman year. A civil engineering major at the time, he tried to balance treatment with school and a comeback looked promising.
When the leukemia returned in 2009, doctors used chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant to fight the cancer. With a clean bill of health, Joubi decided it was time to wipe the slate clean academically and began exploring a different major.
After hearing a friend talk about the CIS program, Joubi became interested in the field. He took well to his new academic endeavor, earning a place on the College of Business Administration Dean’s Honor List and joining the National Society of Leadership and Success.
Joubi found subjects such as Java programming, which many consider boring, fun and interesting. His specialization moved to cybersecurity as incidents of data breaches increased and he realized the importance of keeping information secure. Suddenly, it was spring 2015 and Joubi was applying for graduation.
“When that screen popped up and said, ‘You’ve successfully applied for graduation,’ I started crying,” Joubi said. “It had been so many years and I had to fight and struggle with life-and-death situations, and finally I’m graduating college.”
Growing up, Joubi’s father emphasized the importance of a college education and that was in the back of his mind through the cancer battles. Support from friends and family for Joubi to continue his education no matter how sick he got provided strength during low points.
Joubi was close enough to earning his degree that he was allowed to participate in Commencement last June. With that mission and internship accomplished, he offers one piece of advice about securing personal information from cyber threats: “Use every method you know to protect yourself.”