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Eagles of AUPP, Amani Nelson

Introducing Amani, our accomplished Eagle of AUPP. She’s a senior majoring in ITM, and her journey is a testament to a wealth of accomplishments and personal growth.

From being a Huawei Seeds 2021 Finalist and ranking in the top 10 at Vietnam’s ASCIS CTF Hackathon to securing summer internships with LGMS and Human Managed, Amani’s academic and professional achievements are impressive. Notably, Amani took the reins as the SGA President in April 2023, where she passionately represents the student body and fosters a sense of community.

Yet, Amani remains humble, attributing her success to hard work, help from others, and favorable circumstances. For her, the process matters more than the outcome, and she finds value in every challenge faced. Amani’s aspirations extend beyond university life, as she aims to pursue a career in cybersecurity. Her passion for this dynamic field drives her desire for constant learning and growth.

In her pursuit of happiness, Amani finds joy in everyday moments, appreciating the people around her and living in the present. To those who admire her, Amani’s advice is simple yet profound: Embrace your unique self, pursue happiness, and surround yourself with supportive and challenging individuals.

Questions:

1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? 

I’m Amani. Right now, I’m also a senior of the ITM major. My main jobs at AUPP are being a good student, the SGA President and working as an assistant at IT Support. Throughout my time here, I’ve met a lot of incredible people and have learned a lot from the adults here who mentored me – especially my IT supervisors. Outside of my responsibilities, I like to spend my free time listening to music, learning about psychology, watching true crime, and playing video games (mostly indie, gacha, or simulation). After university, I plan to become a cybersecurity analyst and travel the world more.

2. Could you tell us about the achievement you are most proud of? 

I don’t have any achievement to pick because I think every one of these accomplishments has been a combination of my hard work, people who helped me, and circumstances outside of my control (ex. favorable timing). It’s not fair to take credit for these when it wasn’t entirely my own effort. I still love getting encouragement or hearing when I do well but, the process matters more to me than the outcome. In other words, I feel I gain more when I lose vs when I win.

All my achievements have had me struggle in different ways, but these are still stepping stones in the grand scheme of my life. Every struggle has taught me something valuable, which has improved my resilience, perseverance, and creativity when it comes to problem solving. I think these are the skills that will help me achieve the most in the future. However, all these challenges where I achieved a favorable outcome aren’t worth celebrating now because they’re in the past. For the present, it’s more important to me that I focus on my existing opportunities, so I can accomplish my main goal.

My goal is to pursue cybersecurity as a career because I’m passionate about protecting people from cyber threats and love how the field challenges me to learn constantly. Cybersecurity is a fascinating and important field that changes all the time. Before university, I made a pact to challenge myself and explore new opportunities in this field. I wanted to develop my skills and knowledge in cybersecurity, as well as network with other people who share my interest while enjoying my university life. So far, I have been able to attain both while having a fun time at AUPP which makes me proud of myself.

3. One thing you did that changed your life? (One experience I encountered that could change my life) 

Joining the hacking club is one decision that has changed my life for the better drastically. Through the club, I rediscovered my interest in cybersecurity by learning how to use and install Kali Linux, as well as understand its tools (ex. Nmap, Burpsuite, etc.). Outside of that, the biggest gain from being a member of the club, was getting to know new friends that became treasured people to me. One of my closest friends is someone I got to know through the club, and I care about this friend a lot because we have been through many different situations together, from embarrassing times to serious moments.  

This friend has also taught me how to be more open-minded and curious towards new experiences, by exposing me to different internet subcultures like video streamers, as well as indie projects. By sharing their interests with me, I have found a lot of new ways to enjoy my free time because these have become interests for me too. Life also stays exciting because of the fun facts I learn from this person almost every day, such as how session hijacking works or even how Black Panther’s shoes are made. I really appreciate the present where I get to be around this person. They have a great sense of humor, are easy to get along with, and one of the kindest people I know. Animals must also agree with me since they’re never scared around my friend. 

I also trust this person a lot because they’re not judgmental; they have seen different sides of me (ex. strengths, weaknesses) and still accept me as I am. Before I met this person, I was a lot more closed off to criticism, but now I’m more receptive to hearing it. I’m actually working on improving my communication skills with others thanks to this person. They always give me honest feedback with constructive suggestions and offer helpful advice whenever I need it. This person is someone I hope I can still be in contact with after university because they are a huge reason why I notice my shortcomings more and work harder at being a better person.

4. Who is the person you look up to the most? 

My brother is more than just my role model; he’s my oldest friend. Ever since we were kids, he has been a constant in my life who was always there for me. He has a friendly personality that makes him popular with everyone he meets, and this has taught me how to be more empathetic with others. He also always shows me understanding and respects me as an individual by trusting me to make my own choices. My brother also pushes me to grow as a person by encouraging me to face my fears. I struggle with this, but I know it’s worth it to get over what scares me because I grow stronger from it. Ultimately, I appreciate my brother because he is someone who inspires me to be a better person every day.

5. What are the steps that you took that take you to where you are right now?  

The global pandemic of 2020 disrupted my original plans to study in the US after I graduated and forced me to look for other options. It was hard at first to adapt to a different culture, but making new friends and trying the local foods helped me become more comfortable here.

I enrolled into AUPP during the fall of 2020 because it was the only school available that had a dual degree for IT and it was a degree called Information Technology Management (ITM). Throughout my time in the ITM program, I have found many classmates who inspire me because of their passion for technology, and they have helped me improve my skills as well as knowledge in programming.

Outside of my studies, I am a student employee for IT support because I find it rewarding to help people who face technical difficulties. As a support, I get tickets to help students and staff with a variety of problems. The most common issues that come up are password resets, printing, and getting ID cards. I address the tickets using an automated system, and it’s a smooth process from start to finish. The best part of being in IT support is that I can apply my IT skills and knowledge in a practical setting, which is a useful experience that I will use in my career.

In addition to this, as a student I have been outgoing for opportunities when it comes to people and events since I want to make the most of my experience at AUPP to expand my network. One of the opportunities that I went for recently in April was the SGA election, where I won the presidency. As SGA President, I represent the student body and voice their concerns to the administration. It also gives me a chance to organize events and activities that enhance student life because I care about fostering a sense of community. I enjoyed the events in the past that were organized, and being able to do the organization with my own team now is fun. However, being the SGA president is also hard. I am always learning so I can improve how I lead the team and communicate effectively. I have also faced some issues with balancing my time and addressing criticism; I always try my best to remain open to receiving feedback without taking it personally.

Besides these aspects of my life, I have an active social life with friends who share my interests. Most of the time we meet to eat, but we also enjoy seeing movies or playing games together. My friends are a huge source of joy and comfort, especially during stressful times in the semester.

This is a summary of how I’ve reached the present. There are many other aspects that shaped who I am now, but these are the most important ones. Right now, I feel happy with myself because I’m certain about what I love to do, what I want to achieve, and who I want to be around at AUPP.

6. What is the happiest moment of your life? 

I haven’t experienced my happiest moment yet, but I have had many moments where I felt happy during my time at AUPP. One of the main sources of my happiness is the people I surround myself with. I have a lot of amazing friends who have supported me, inspired me, and made me laugh. I will miss them a lot when I graduate, but I will always cherish our memories. I also try to live in the present and appreciate every day as a gift. Life is unpredictable so I don’t want to waste time worrying about uncertainties of the future or dwell too much on my past. I do my best to make the most of everyday because I want to enjoy the journey while learning from my mistakes so that I grow as a person. Eventually, I think my happiest moment will come when I can live independently and work on my bucket list.

7. Any advice to the people that look up to you? 

I appreciate that some people might admire me, but I don’t think I’m anyone special. I’m just trying to be myself and do what I enjoy. I think the best advice I can give is get to know who you are and find out what activities make you happy. Don’t waste time on comparing yourself to me or anyone else. It’s unnecessary to put people on a pedestal because no one is perfect. Find your own voice and your own path. One way I do this is by watching video essays that analyze characters or stories I find interesting. I like finding out how they relate to me and what I can learn from them. Another way is when I spend time talking to my friends who care about me and give me honest feedback. They all help me grow and improve as a person. Surround yourself with quality people who support and challenge you; that’s how you can succeed in life and feel fulfilled. You don’t need to change yourself – just improve one quality at a time while being a good person to other people. That’s all I have. 🙂

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