Jumpstarting His Life, Nighthawk has Sights Set on a Second CareerĀ 

August 31, 2023

Wendell Jones was the first in his family to graduate from college. Wendell is a highly accomplished individual who earned a four-year degree and two master's degrees from the University of Washington, in Seattle. He and his wife are proud parents of a grown son, a professor at Yale, and a daughter, an economist. 


You could say that Wendell and his wife share a strong bond since they both value education. His wife works as a second-grade teacher at an elementary school in Greenbelt, Md., and Wendell decided to attend NOVA. 

After leaving a long, no longer viable career, Wendell set his sights on a new direction. After researching the type of industry he would like to get into, especially one that is sustainable, he came to NOVA for a cybersecurity degree which he received in 2020. But of course, Wendell is not stopping there. He is continuing his education and earning additional certifications in Data Center Operations and Network Engineering. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background: 
I worked as an International Development Analyst, but the market started to decline a few years ago. It was either 2013 or 2014 when I worked as a consultant, and I wasn’t very happy with the work.  

I conducted research to determine what fields would be sustainable during the next decade and which would not discriminate as far as age because I’m middle-aged. Most of my research showed that cybersecurity was the up-and-coming field at that time. As I gained information about the field, I discovered that careers in Data Center Operations are fast-growing, especially in Northern Virginia. 

My background in cybersecurity, and the addition of the certification in Data Center Operations and Network Engineering will make me a competitive applicant.  

I grew up in poverty, but I've worked hard to improve my life and I am grateful for my accomplishments.  

I was born in Waco, Texas, and as an adult, I lived in Houston. For about 25 years, I lived in Seattle, Washington before moving back to Texas. I was romanticizing how Texas used to be, but it was less diverse, progressive and forward-looking than I hoped. So, my wife accepted a job in Maryland with Prince George's Public Schools, taking us to Northern Virginia. Now, my wife and I live in Arlington. 

For a little bit of background, I have an undergraduate degree from the University of Washington in American ethnic studies and two master's degrees, one from the Evans School of Public Policy in international development policy and management and the other from the Jackson School of Public Policy in international studies, with a focus on technological education and maternal and child welfare in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The education I received at NOVA is equal to what I received at both of those schools. The reason is that NOVA has given me a more hands-on approach to life and a way to jumpstart my life again! 

What brought you to NOVA? 
I came over to NOVA and spoke with Margaret Leary, who was the head of the Cybersecurity Program at the Alexandria Campus. I started the cybersecurity program in 2018. Then COVID hit, but I came back, finished up the degree and graduated Cum Laude.  

I'm studying for the CompTIA Security+ exam and the Cisco Certified Networking Associate exam for the industry certificates. I also enrolled in the Data Center Operations certification program. 

What are you studying at NOVA? 
I received an associate degree in cybersecurity in the summer of 2020. I am currently completing the requirements for certification in Network Engineering and Data Center Operations. 

Tell Us About Your Experience at NOVA, i.e., professors you’ve liked and friends you’ve met.  
My experience at NOVA on the Alexandria Campus was exceptional. I had incredible teachers because most were practitioners in their field bringing invaluable real-world experience to the classroom. Most were still working in their profession. They taught me how important it is to work alongside individuals who possess both academic knowledge and practical real-world skills. As someone looking to make a career transition, this guidance was incredibly helpful. 

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA? 
If I come across a new student on campus, I would advise them to make use of the resources available to them. The counseling center is particularly helpful. As someone who has worked for two years at the Academic Success Center on the Alexandra Campus, I have been able to offer guidance and mentoring to others, just as others provided for me in the past. 

Where do you see yourself after NOVA or what career pursuits are you exploring?  
Hopefully, I can find employment at one of the many data centers expanding across Northern Virginia. That's the most important thing that I want right now. My wife has been pulling the load and I'm ready to get in the field and work. 

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