Cybersecurity student seeks success inside and outside the classroom

Two things brought senior Zaine Wilson to Mason: the cyber security engineering program and the Mason Competitive Cyber club (MCC).  

Now, as a senior graduating in December 2021 and president of MCC, Wilson is still just as passionate about the reasons that brought him to Mason. “Everything lined up perfectly for me to come to Mason, and I’m happy I did,” he says.   

MCC is a student organization that competes in cybersecurity competitions where students often are presented with problems on the day of the competition and have to use various technical skills to find their solutions.  

“When I was visiting campus for the first time, before I had even applied to Mason, I heard about MCC and I decided to go to one of their meetings while I was visiting. I found it so interesting, and that was my first real taste of hacker culture,” he says.  

After that, he was hooked. When he got to Mason, he quickly got involved in the club, and in the fall of his junior year, he took the helm as president. “I always enjoyed being a part of the club. Even when I couldn’t make meetings, I tried to stay involved the best I could,” says Wilson.  

During cybersecurity awareness month 2020, MCC has spent their weekends competing in virtual competitions. “The competitions give a lot of hands-on experience. Sitting down at the keyboard and reverse engineering a piece of software or malware that’s been dropped in front of you, or testing a system based purely on your own intellect, teaches you a lot.”  

In contrast to his coursework inside the cyber security engineering program, MCC is more practical. “In most of my classes, we look more at systems engineering principals, the way to think about designing and solving problems. But together, classes and MCC are complimentary,” says Wilson.  

After Mason, Wilson sees numerous paths he could pursue. “It is very hard to pick one field of cybersecurity, it has much more breadth than people think,” he says. “I used to think I wanted to do cryptography because I also enjoy math, but I’ve also become interested in offensive cybersecurity during my time at Mason.”  

But no matter the path, he is sure that he has found his lifetime career. “I feel extremely lucky that I managed to find this field and what I want to do,” says Wilson.