Nighthawk Jaden Todd Studies Computer Science: "My Goal is to Make a Massive Impact on the World!"

September 15, 2023

Jaden Todd is a techie and a NOVA Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) team member. He spends a lot of time in the cybersecurity lab on the Woodbridge Campus, where the team practices. It is his second home. When Jaden first visited the lab, he knew this was where he belonged. It opened a world of possibilities and set him on an exciting path in life. 


Jaden and his teammates consistently challenge themselves to learn more, help each other grow and have fun. Their coaches, Coach Mac (WO-Cybersecurity) and Coach K.K. (Kwabena Konadu, WO-Cybersecurity), push the team to succeed, not just in competition but in life. The coaches and the team have an incredible bond that words fail to describe. 

For Jaden, technology is one of his biggest passions! But after the cumulative effects of seven diagnosed concussions or traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) from sports in his youth, Jaden felt his future could be in jeopardy. He is immensely grateful for the love and support of his parents, family, friends and the scouting community for helping him work through such a difficult period. Read his story in his own words. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background: 
I am 21 years old and grew up in Woodbridge, Va. I attend the Woodbridge Campus and have always had an interest in technology. At 11, I created my first 3D video game. After that, I developed an extreme interest in anything technology related. 

At Woodbridge Senior High School, I was part of the robotics team in 9th grade. The team didn’t have a programmer, so I jumped in and learned RobotC programming language and assisted with the building of the robot. This was my first experience building something that interacted with the physical world, and it further drove my passion for technology! That year, we made it into the final rounds of the 2016-2017 Vex Robotics State Competition. 

What brought you to NOVA? 
I graduated high school in 2020, but COVID spooked me from being willing to go outside, much less leave home to attend a four-year institution. After two years of avoiding school and working, I decided to take English-111 at NOVA to see if I could still learn. 

I wouldn’t have come this far if NOVA wasn’t so affordable. Also, NOVA was a safe place where I could risk failing that English class since I wasn’t sure if I could still learn because of the TBIs and the COVID two-year gap in my schooling. I am still surprised I got an “A” in that class, which motivated me to believe that I could still learn. It made me feel amazed! So, at the start of spring semester at NOVA, I decided to take as many credits as possible and graduate as a computer science major. 

In spring 2023, I enrolled in 19 credits at NOVA while working 35-hours a week and doing cybersecurity competition training. I passed everything with an “A” except math. My math grade was an 87, which I still feel bad about. 

What are you studying at NOVA? 
I am studying computer science. I knew I wanted to be in that field. I didn’t choose IT as networking isn’t the most fun for me; and while I enjoy troubleshooting issues, I don’t want that as my main task daily. 

Computer science gives me the opportunity to program–which I love– while learning the concepts behind how things work and why they function. It drives me and allows me to push through all the ‘evil’ math I must take for my degree. 

Tell Us About Your Experience at NOVA, i.e., professors you’ve liked and friends you’ve met.  
I received an email from the Information Engineering and Technologies (IET) Division saying there was a program called AllCyber that meets on Saturdays in the cybersecurity lab or the AllCyber Room. I was interested but wanted to avoid dealing with socialization since I hadn’t interacted much with anyone outside of work since 2020. But my mother convinced me to go and meet these ‘super scary hackers’ who later became my friends that I treat like family! 

Professor K.K. and Professor Mac have influenced me most during my time at NOVA. I have also met friends in the cybersecurity lab and in my classes. I am truly blessed to have the opportunities I have been given here at NOVA! 

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA? 
If they are like me and have had a long gap since they were last in school, I’d suggest taking a class that they would find easy or enjoyable. Taking one class would allow them to relearn how to learn, remind them how to take notes and give them a confidence boost once they succeed. 

Where do you see yourself after NOVA or what career pursuits are you exploring? 
I am honestly surprised where I started and where I am now! From being concerned about passing a single class to being insane and taking the maximum number of credits! 

I am in the ADVANCE program, which has relieved me of a good chunk of stress from my financial concerns, as I can save money in the program and guarantee I’ll be accepted into a four-year college. 

At George Mason University, I plan to be a computer science major, with the possibility of looking into AI/Machine Learning. After Mason, my goal is to get a job at Meta, Amazon, Apple, Netflix or Google. Overall, my goal is to make a massive impact on the world! Another goal is to be a father, raise a couple of children and let them do something amazing! 

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