On September 11th, 2023 I got my PhD. I finally did it. It took me a long time. I was admitted to the program in 2015, but I actually started classes in fall of 2014, so I was in school for 9 years. It took me longer than anticipated because in 2019 I had to change advisors and move to another lab. I may talk about the details in the future, but it basically added at least 3 more years to my PhD journey. I was also doing this entire thing while working full-time, and I managed to get a 4.0 in all my coursework.
This is the hardest thing I've ever done. It took its toll on me mentally, physically, and emotionally. I am completely burnt out. I need a very long vacation, but I am not sure when I am going to be able to do that. I think in the end it was worth it. I like the research I did, and I think I was able to make tangible, practical contributions to the field of Computer Science and Cybersecurity. Being part of this program gave me some unexpected benefits. One of the big things was being introduced to the Pat Tillman Foundation and getting the opportunity to be a Tillman Scholar. This is something I never would have been able to do otherwise. I can't say enough good things about the foundation and also the scholars I have met, some of whom have become very close friends.
I'm still figuring out what to do next. But at the moment, I'm just happy to have accomplished something major and I'm trying to internalize that success.