11 Jan 2024
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Emilio Bargiacchi decided to switch careers. He shares how Unitec | Te Pūkenga helped him trade farm life for cyber intelligence. And an internship with Spark was instrumental in securing a job – before graduation.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Emilio Bargiacchi, like most people, was stuck at home. But his job wasn’t something he could do online. Not one to sit around and twiddle his thumbs, he decided it was time for a career change.
Emilio is a graduate of the New Zealand Diploma in Cybersecurity. While at Unitec, he completed an internship with Spark, which he says was instrumental in securing a job – before he’d even finished his studies. Today, he works as a tier-one security analyst in Auckland Transport’s Security Operations Centre.
Pandemic sparks career change
For the past decade, Emilio worked in agriculture and horticulture, primarily as a dairy farmer. So, retraining in the field of cybersecurity is quite a U-turn.
“I’ve always been mindful of online security, and as I’ve learned things, I’ve taught family and friends how to stay safe online,” he says.
Many years ago, Emilio studied at Unitec | Te Pūkenga after he left school. It was his first port of call when he searched for a cybersecurity programme.
“I knew Unitec offered a cybersecurity diploma with a good reputation in the industry, especially for its internship opportunities.”
He completed the New Zealand in Information Systems (Level 5) before moving into cybersecurity.
Finding his cybersecurity domain
Cybersecurity is a fast-growing industry with many domains that lead to various career paths.
Studying the New Zealand Diploma in Cybersecurity gave Emilio a chance to explore those areas before homing in on a domain that he finds interesting. And surprisingly, it’s not the area he originally thought he’d end up in.
“I wanted to become a penetration tester or work in a red team environment,” he says. “But I’ve veered off in the opposite direction, and I’m focusing on cyber threat intelligence.”
As a security analyst, Emilio is part of a team responsible for monitoring Auckland Transport’s network and investigating any threats or alerts. He’s also working on several security projects in his role at the Security Operations Centre.
Over the next few years, he’s focused on progressing up tier levels, hoping to become an incident responder. On top of that, he continues to upskill and experiment as much as he can, something he says Unitec’s lecturers encouraged right from the start.
“Certifications are highly sought after in this industry, especially from an HR perspective, so I’m concentrating on adding more to my CV to help grow my career,” Emilio says.
“In cybersecurity, there’s always something new to learn, and I liked that Unitec’s programme pushed us to research and experiment with different things on our own. I believe that to excel in this industry, constant development is critical.”
Internship leads to work
A core part of Unitec’s cybersecurity diploma is the work-based projects supplied by industry partners Spark and Datacom.
Through that work, Emilio secured an internship at Spark, where he spent half a day each week getting exposure to the industry. He says the experience helped him understand the business of cybersecurity and complemented what he learned in the classroom.
“Unitec gave me a broad, conceptual overview of cybersecurity. The internship offered more refined, detailed learning about specific tools and techniques,” he says.
Emilio believes the way Unitec facilitates work experience for its students played a big role in him getting a job before he’d finished his studies.
“If I hadn’t spent time at Spark, I don’t think I’d be where I am today,” he says. “I was able to draw on that experience in my interview, and I think that’s what got me ahead.”
Switching careers – “anyone can do it.”
There are some things that Emilio misses from his agriculture days – like working with animals. But he says it’s nice to not work in the rain. “That was never fun,” he laughs.
He’s proud of his decision to switch careers and encourages others to “get stuck in and do it” if they’ve been sitting on the fence.
“If I can do farming for almost a decade and decide to change careers, anyone can do it,” he says.
For people considering a career in cybersecurity, his advice is to take advantage of all the extra resources and opportunities to connect with employers in the industry.
“Unitec provides a staggering number of resources which really helped me understand all the different components of cybersecurity. It gave me a great base of knowledge and skills to use during my internship.”
Find out more about studying Computing at Unitec: