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Former restaurant manager now champions cybersecurity, thanks to Unitec

  • Unitec New Zealand Diploma in Cybersecurity grad Paul Thomas_Slide

Auckland-based Cybersecurity analyst Paul Thomas reckons it’s never too late to study and credits Unitec with helping him ‘find his thing’ after completing its highly-acclaimed cybersecurity programme.

30 March 2023

Unitec was the first tertiary institution in New Zealand to offer the vocational New Zealand Diploma in Cybersecurity, having developed and launched the Level 6 qualification which was supported from the outset by a number of partners, including Datacom and Spark.  

It’s a one-year, full-time course, focused on equipping students with the core cybersecurity and technical skills needed to protect information and manage systems security. 

Students undertake risk assessments, and employ effective techniques to address security deficiencies.  

Twenty years ago, Paul completed a University degree in Management and Human Resources before heading overseas for an extended OE where he lived and worked his way around Europe for ten years.

On his return to New Zealand, he fell into hospitality roles and managed a range of Auckland restaurants which he says bridged a gap, but wasn’t what he wanted to do long-term.   

“I looked around at IT qualifications and initially started a computer science degree because I thought that it was an area that interested me,” he says. “But it was all about coding and very traditional elements of IT.

“Then I came across the Unitec Cybersecurity diploma which offered a fresh, contemporary slant on what I thought was one of the most relevant areas of IT, along with practical experience I knew I couldn’t get anywhere else. The course really stood out to me,” he says.

The diploma aims to bridge the gap between education and industry, with industry partnerships providing employment opportunities for students and equipping them with hands-on skills for jobs.

Paul was among one of the first cohorts to complete the course, and was offered a role with Datacom as a cybersecurity analyst once he’d finished. 
“The course leads naturally into an analyst’s role,” he says. “It’s a great entry-level option and leads on to a range of other opportunities.  Datacom also has a deep and well-supported training environment to ensure that the students are coming to Datacom not just to learn, but to learn through working.”

Paul has since moved into a similar role with PwC’s cybersecurity practice, an area that he says is constantly evolving. 

“There’s always something new to learn, and it’s an area that PwC is really looking to develop,” he says. “There are lots of very cool opportunities in this space, and I’m really looking forward to growing with my role as the sector continues to innovate and develop.