Professional Development

How I Got Here: An apprenticeship took this Middletown pro from teacher to cybercrime analyst

Austin Northcutt's experience in Tech Impact's new training program cut out some of the roadblocks he'd hit when trying to pivot into the industry.

Austin Northcutt speaks at Tech Impact's National Apprenticeship Week event.

(Courtesy photo)

Austin Northcutt was a special education teacher in a rut. He respected the profession, but it wasn’t working for him.

“I was never truly satisfied with what I was doing,” the Middletown resident told Technical.ly.

So Northcutt did what people often do when they’re looking to make a career change: He went back to school and earned a master’s degree. In his case, in information systems.

Unfortunately for him, tech job recruiters weren’t interested in his resume, with eight years of experience in teaching.

“As a teacher, I was always looking for new ways to incorporate technology into my classroom,” Northcutt said. “And I honestly thought I would go into educational technology when I got my master’s, but I just couldn’t get past the most basic HR thing. They were looking at me on paper and couldn’t see solid skills. I couldn’t even get an interview.”

Pivot to cyber

He spotted a billboard that changed his life — yes, really. It was for Tech Impact’s Registered IT Technology Support Apprenticeship program, which launched in 2020 with support from JPMorgan Chase. Northcutt wound up in the first cohort, with a focus on cybersecurity, and spoke at Tech Impact’s National Apprenticeship Week event at DECO on Nov. 17.

Today, Northcutt is the lead cybercrime analyst for JPMorgan Chase North American operations and serves as a subject matter expert for ransomware-related threat activity, working part of the time from his home and part of the time in JPMorgan Chase’s Wilmington office.

Protecting finances turned out to be what he was looking for.

“I like the challenge of trying to understand new threats, trying to protect our organization, but also knowing that what we do protects the financial well being of individuals,” he said. “I work with people in our fraud intelligence unit, helping to block fraudulent transfers from people’s bank accounts.”

Making it work

Tech apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly common way to break into tech, as more corporations adopt them. They’re a good way to get paid while completing your training, and they usually offer great networking opportunities.

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The Tech Impact program included four months of free full-time training during which Northcutt earned three certifications, followed by a year of a paid, hands-on apprenticeship. During the training period, he was able to get a stipend to help financially since he’d had to leave his teaching job.

After several interviews, he landed permanently at JPMC, with an increase in income over what he made teaching. Importantly, the process allowed him to bypass the recruiters who were holding him back.

If you follow Northcutt’s path, be prepared to put your head down and study.

“I always tell people, as far as the Tech Impact process goes, there are tests you have to do to show aptitude,” he said. “If you’re going to do this, make sure you study for it. Make sure you find the right opportunity for you and don’t give up if you don’t get the first apprenticeship you interview for. I didn’t. In retrospect, I ended up getting a much better apprenticeship than I would have had at the other company.”

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