Apprenticeship Spotlight: July 2020

A headshot of a black man with a shaved head and mustache wearing glasses and a black and red plaid shirt.

“I am proud of Ryan for completing the apprenticeship and am grateful for the partnership with ACDS which presented us with strong candidates like Ryan.

—Chelsay Hollon, Supervisor, SOC, Simmons Bank

Meet Ryan Salery

Age: 31

Hometown: Port St. Lucie, FL

Apprenticeship: Simmons Bank


I was born in West Palm Beach, Florida, and then my family moved up the coast to a town called Jupiter. Later they moved to Port St. Lucie, on the Atlantic side of South Florida, and that’s where I pretty much grew up.


I graduated from Fort Pierce Central high school, and later got my B.S. degree in Cybersecurity Management and Policy from University of Maryland, University College. They’ve since rebranded—it’s now called University of Maryland Global Campus.

It was all online and I was actually in Japan when I was doing it, so there wasn’t instant feedback from an instructor or anything. I had to wait 13 hours until the instructor woke up the next day to get back to me about whatever question I had. And by that time, I had already moved on mentally. For me it was a very, very different experience, because I didn’t have an instructor right there in my face to answer questions while I was actually in that workspace. But I had a 3.9 GPA and made Dean’s List every semester.


My first job was as a stock clerk at Publix, which is a big supermarket chain headquartered in Florida. I had that job from the time I was 14 until I graduated from high school. I was responsible for accepting probably 2400 delivered items a week and making sure the proper amount of the right product was inside.


In 2008, I joined the United States Air Force as a Missile and Space Maintenance Technician. Stationed at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, I was entrusted with the receipt, control, transportation, and transfer of nuclear weapons over a 9600-square-mile area in three states. I also performed critical maintenance tasks/inspections to operate and maintain 150 Minuteman III ballistic missiles, as well as performing maintenance at the support base, launch, launch control, and storage facilities and ensuring compliance with international treaties.

I really liked the military. I didn’t like the location, but my job didn’t really have too many other options—you don’t want a city being a target, you know. But what I liked most was the camaraderie. I met a lot of great people in the military, including my wife.


She was stationed in Guam, so after my six years in the Air Force, I went to Guam to be with her. There I worked for the U.S. Air Force Reserves as an Air Transportation Specialist. I established procedures for loading both cargo and passengers aboard aircraft, as well as inspected airlift activities and recommended any needed corrective action. I also completed technical training on cyber awareness on different types of social engineering attacks to ensure the safety of the network.

I also worked for a while as an Aviation Handler for Guam Air Services, directing the ground crew in the loading, unloading, securing, and staging of aircraft cargo. I determined the quantity and orientation of the cargo, computed the aircraft’s center of gravity, and signed the load plan or manifest.

After Guam, my wife was stationed in Japan, which is why I was taking my college courses from there. Once I got out of the military, I knew I was going to go to college for something. I’ve always been around computers and have been kind of “the IT guy,” but never the super technical IT guy. I was just interested in the technology, so I decided I wanted to get an IT job. I also knew cybersecurity was where I wanted to go, because I knew the hacker mentality and it made me wonder: What do we do on the other side? How do we stop people from doing that?


After three years in Japan, we moved to Arkansas. My wife is still in the Air Force, active duty. She’s got seven more years before she can retire, and I think she’s going for the long haul.

I saw a posting on LinkedIn, I think it was, about a cyber apprenticeship, and so I got in touch and was interviewed for that. Then I guess the recruiter reached out to people and Simmons was interested in a new hire for building their SOC—their security operations center. So I interviewed with Simmons for that, and then I interviewed again. And they said, Yes, we’ll sponsor you for that cybersecurity apprenticeship.


In the apprenticeship program, I learned a lot of different programming languages, and I found a whole bunch of new resources. I think that’s the biggest takeaway. Not every cyber case is going to be exactly the same, so you can’t really train people for that. But you can teach them how to think about a problem. Sometimes knowing where to start is the biggest thing you can have. Because if you already know where to start, and know what resources you have, you find one piece, and then you go to the next piece, and the next. It’s just like getting the corners or border of a puzzle.


At Simmons Bank, I’m a security operations center analyst. I’m also part of the incident response team. If some malware happened to be on our network, we would be the ones to go and eradicate it. “Incidents” are big things, so it’s not very often that we have an incident, because we have good security tools that usually catch it. But instances of phishing, they’re about every day.

What often happens is that one of our vendors or customers has been compromised, and then the hackers try whoever’s in that contact list for that customer. So these aren’t targeted attacks. They’re more like massive spam—just trying to get peoples’ information. Credential harvesting is usually the big thing we see, just trying to get usernames and passwords so they can sell them.

It’s interesting work. I like the puzzle of figuring out why this got on the system, or how it got on the system. Sometimes it’s super easy, and then other times you’re wondering, Hmm, where did this come from?