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“It’s an excellent learning platform and you get out of it what you put in…”

Judy Aguiar, Capella University graduate

The Situation

Judy Aguiar has been working in the Information Technology field for about 40 years and recently graduated from Capella University with her Master of Science in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity. As her career progressed from managing tasks to managing people, she realized she was being pulled away from the daily hands-on activities she enjoyed. She also felt she was missing some of the foundational cyber skills she needed to grow her career.

“My positions in the past have been more managerial, so it’s been less hands-on over time, and I really wanted to get more hands-on and foundational experience,” she said. 

The Solution

Judy went back to school and decided to specialize in Digital Forensics in her Master’s program. In the program at Capella University she learned more about cyber tools and techniques using hands-on labs in Project Ares. The award-winning scenario-based platform helps learners like Judy gain skills and competencies that are applicable to the cyber workforce. When integrated into a cyber curriculum program like at Capella University, Project Ares labs provide the project-based tasks that learners crave, and teachers desire to improve learner’s employability and professional development.


“Capella University did it exceptionally well. There was a curriculum around our learning
so that we could fully understand each command and why we were doing it,” Judy said.

That kind of critical thinking was shown in the course’s learning requirements:

Students generated Mission Reports to explain why they were using certain tools, commands, and practices.

Students explained what vulnerabilities existed that enabled an attack; as well as, what could be done differently in the future to mitigate the vulnerabilities. 

“We used the Project Ares Media Center and conducted research on our own…It added an extra layer to the learning experience,” she said. Within her Project Ares labs, Judy used foundational scenarios called Battle Rooms to learn new tools and techniques. She practiced different Battle Room and Mission scenarios repeatedly to hone her skills. She describes her learning experience as “addicting,” because she wanted to beat her own personal completion times and, “do it faster and more efficiently.” That work ethic, combined with the platform’s cyber learning games like Trivia Loot, Cylitaire, and Cyber Vault helped Judy actively engage and take control of her learning experience on her terms.

I had a lot of fun with it. I now feel comfortable using Linux—thanks to the Project Ares platform. I used to feel intimidated when trying to use Secure Shell, but now I know how to use it and feel at ease.  I really gained a lot from using the Project Ares platform—most notably: Confidence!

Judy Aguiar, Capella University graduate

The Benefits

Project Ares hands-on labs have helped Judy in her day-to-day job, as well. Now, if she has to use cybersecurity applications such as Wireshark, Metasploit, Radare2, or recon commands, she says, “I now have that in my toolbelt…I know now to not be afraid of using a variety of tools.”

Judy is using her newfound skills to obtain other cyber industry certifications: planning to take the CIPP/US exam for Certified Privacy Professional and the CRISC Certification for Risk and Information Systems Control. Perhaps, she said, a doctorate degree is in the realm of possibility, too.

Project Ares by Circadence is an award-winning platform that provides hands-on cyber security labs that enhance competency-based education for teachers and reinforce readiness objectives for trainers. Its authentic library of threat scenarios are immersive and reflect contemporary threat incidents. Learners have the ability to use real security tools, tactics, and procedures in Project Ares to effectively perform offensive and defensive activities to build cyber skills and competencies on-demand. Circadence is a Microsoft Partner and Education Specialist. For more information, visit www.circadence.com.