Is a Career in Computer and Digital Forensics Right for You?

Do you love solving puzzles, tinkering with the latest technology, earning good money, and making the world a better place? A career in Computer & Digital Forensics might be calling your name. Hear from industry professionals why Champlain is the place to hone your skills and set you up for success.

We recently sat down with three Incident Response (IR) professionals from Dell SecureWorks, a global forensics and cybersecurity firm, to learn more about the field of digital forensics. We also wanted to hear what they’re looking for in new hires.

The trio—Ryan Marcotte Cobb, Jason Shafferman, and Champlain alum, Michael Cook ’18 // Computer & Digital Forensics—made the trip to Champlain to interview students for a handful of open positions at their firm. “The market for talented and capable incident response individuals is very limited,” says Cobb. “Every other year, we hire four IR candidates from colleges across the whole country. That’s it. Then we spend a whole lot of time working with them, investing in them, and growing their skills. We want to make sure we keep them around.”

The Dell SecureWorks hiring team from left to right: Jason Shafferman, Ryan Marcotte Cobb, and Champlain alum, Michael Cook ’18 // Computer & Digital Forensics.

Incident response positions aren’t typically filled by recent college graduates, according to the Dell SecureWorks team. “You usually need a lot of experience in other fields before you move laterally into the IR space,” says Cobb.

That’s not the case for graduates of Champlain’s Computer & Digital Forensics program, says the trio. “We love Champlain. You can write that down,” enthused Cobb. “Champlain has one of the best all-round [Digital Forensics] programs. The Leahy Center for Digital Forensics & Cybersecurity is really fantastic. It gives students practical, hands-on experience. You don’t see a lot of students [from other colleges] with the same kinds of skills.”

Senator Patrick Leahy, the senior-most member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, listens to Amanda Johnson ’19 // Computer & Digital Forensics, on a recent tour of The Leahy Center.

“It’s the combination of a really, really good, modern, relevant curriculum, plus Champlain’s small school approach, where you pay attention to each student and make sure they’re doing the right things when it comes to being hired,” says Cobb.

Jason Shafferman, Senior Manager, Incident Response and Forensic Consulting at Dell SecureWorks, agrees: “Your candidates are very relevant, consistently among the top,” he adds.

Champlain’s program is effective in teaching what we’re looking for and what’s relevant.

Jason Shafferman, Senior Manager, Incident Response and Forensic Consulting at Dell SecureWorks

Two other things that stand out to the team are Champlain’s well-connected, resource-rich Career Collaborative department and our industry-expert faculty. “The faculty want to know what we’re looking for in candidates and how to make people more effective,” says Shafferman. “They were seeking candid feedback.”

You may be wondering what digital forensics experts and incident responders do. They’re the people who are called in once a hack or breach has occurred. From the smallest ransomware attack to threats by adversarial nation states, digital forensics investigators dig into these issues, track down sources, recover stolen information, and aid law enforcement with investigations. They also make sure these incidents don’t happen again.

Michael Cook ’18 // Computer & Digital Forensics, was hired by Dell SecureWorks right after he graduated from Champlain.

When we asked the SecureWorks team, “What’s the most exciting thing they’ve worked on?” they laughed and wanted to move onto the next question. The secretive nature of their work means they can’t talk about anything specific. But, take a look at the latest headlines and you get a sense of the urgency and complexity of the issues these experts are tackling: NGOs attacked by hostile countries, cities and municipalities paralyzed by ransomware, and global corporations undercut by industrial espionage. Our interconnected world means digital forensics experts are involved in matters affecting human rights, elections, economies, and overall safety.

“We are playing a cat and mouse game with, in some cases, very sophisticated bad guys,” says Cobb. “There’s something thrilling about that at times.”

Assistant Professor Yogesh Khatri brings a decade of experience from the field. He worked in the U.S. and abroad as an incident handler, malware analyst, and computer forensic examiner. Here, he’s teaching a class in one of our Digital Forensics computer labs. Photo by Neo Weaver ’23.

What are the perks of the field? Highly competitive salaries, excellent job security, and the exciting nature of the work. Plus, you can live almost anywhere you want in the U.S., says the SecureWorks team.

It’s always changing. You’re always learning. You’re never doing the same thing every day.

Michael Cook ’18 // Incident Response and Forensic Consultant at SecureWorks

If you’re interested in studying Computer & Digital Forensics, sign up to receive more information on this page. You can also visit Champlain College and take a tour of The Leahy Center to learn more about what kind of work our students get involved with as early as their first year.

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