Microsoft Cybersecurity Work-Based Learning Experience with Dekaney High School

IGNITE Students from Dekaney High School in Houston, Texas, delved into the world of cybersecurity on Friday, January 26, 2024. Partnering with Microsoft, this virtual Work-Based Learning Experience aimed to provide an introductory look into the field of cybersecurity.

After a quick introduction to and review of cybersecurity concepts and professional roles, the event kicked off with Breakout Room Leaders Roopa Natarajan and Natalie Seaton, along with KR Shubha, engaging students in decoding ciphers and offering firsthand perspectives on navigating the cybersecurity landscape. They emphasized the importance of courage and curiosity, encouraging students not to shy away from asking questions and exploring diverse opportunities to find their passion.

The highlight of the event was the interactive panel discussion where students had the chance to pose questions to the panelists. From inquiries about career trajectories to the skills essential for success in the field, the exchange was both informative and inspiring. Students sought advice on decision-making processes, the challenges of the job, and opportunities like apprenticeships and internships at Microsoft.

The Panelists, Andreea Pintilie, Sowmya Keshavaiah, and KR Shubha, brought a wealth of experience as they shared insights into their roles as Senior Software Engineer, Senior Data Analyst, and Principal PM Manager, respectively.

The event fostered a dynamic learning environment, empowering the students to consider cybersecurity as a viable and exciting career path. The students left the event with not only a newfound knowledge but also a sense of possibility and direction in the ever-evolving field of technology.

Thank you extends to all the Volunteers and Educators who made this event a success. Special appreciation goes to Microsoft Event Coordinator Liz Bander for her organization and support. We are immensely grateful to Panelists Andreea Pintilie, Sowmya Keshavaiah, KR Shubha for sharing their stories with the students. Thank you to Breakout Room Leaders Roopa Natarajan, KR, and Natalie Seaton for showing students the inner workings of cybersecurity. We also extend our sincere gratitude to Educators Tracey White and Mrs. Lucas for their dedication to empowering students and facilitating enriching learning experiences.

After attending this event:


of students are interested in STEM

Take STEM Class


of students know more about STEM career choices and the benefits of working in a STEM field

Ask Teacher about Additional STEM Activities


of students feel more confident in pursuing STEM


of students gained perspective and feel more hopeful about the future

Here’s what the students thought of the event:

Today’s event helped me learn about others’ experiences, and how they got to the point they are at, allowing me to relate and understand how women in STEM work. My favorite thing was just learning the experiences of others and understanding how they got to their positions. Thank you Ignite for having P-TECH along with you to learn more about STEM.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

“This event inspired me to try harder with what I enjoy doing. It also inspired me to not give up on what I enjoy. As much as I enjoyed the event, I loved how kind everyone who was teaching us was the most. Thank you all for taking the time out of your days to do this!” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

“Today’s event inspired me to want to learn more about STEM fields. It taught me more about things in STEM I didn’t know. I liked hearing the stories of each volunteer as each was different and very interesting.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

Today’s event inspired me because I feel more comfortable seeing women working with technology. I feel like I should now continue on getting a career in computer science. My favorite thing I learned today was decoding words. I found decoding words super fun and easy to do. Thank you!” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

Today was very interesting and made me feel safer knowing that there are other women out there working in the STEM field. It was also really interesting to see the different careers in cybersecurity because most of the time when I think about cybersecurity I think of hackers, analysts, and administrators, but seeing that there are also architects, etc., expanded and changed the way I thought of cybersecurity. I really enjoyed the decoding activity in the breakout room. I also appreciate the welcomeness of the hosts and participants of this meeting; it made me feel like I was talking to a close friend and made me more comfortable when asking questions! Thank you for that!” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

“Today’s event inspired me to be more motivated in my technology career. By meeting all of these people, I have more courage to work in this field. My favorite thing I’ve learned was the different types of jobs you can get in STEM. I am very interested in all of those different careers.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

“It inspired me because the volunteers usually just started off with simply having a piece of technology and they greatly improved at it. They made a career out of something they enjoyed, which made me hope I could do the same. If all of the wonderful volunteers can do it, so can we! My favorite thing I learned today was the different types of jobs I could get by pursuing a career in STEM. I didn’t know hacking to look for flaws was a job, but now it sounds like a really fun one and one I might like.” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

“Today in the Zoom meeting I got to witness and hear about everyone’s experience, and it was a fun vibe. My curiosity was heightened, and have more interest in exploring the STEM field. It made me more confident knowing women and girls could be more confident and deserved the chance to go into a more male-dominated field. I’ve become more comfortable. My favorite thing I learned today was getting to know the volunteers, and talking with everyone was super fun. The hacker cybersecurity was super interesting; I would want to go into that more and explore.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

“Being able to be here for today’s event has been quite nice. I enjoyed the opportunity to have been able to see other career choices inside the world of computer science and technology. Being able to hear the experiences of the professionals in the meeting definitely made me more interested in STEM. My favorite thing I learned today was the journey that led up to the professional’s current position. I also enjoyed getting a reminder of the terms talked about and just tips and hints to things I’ll need for the future.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

This event was awesome; everyone was very nice. I liked the small group we had. My favorite thing I learned was cybersecurity. Thank you to all the volunteers!” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

About Microsoft:

It’s Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more and are dedicated to advancing human and organizational achievement. Microsoft encourages teams, business customers and external stakeholders to find out more about Microsoft’s technology and encourages students and teachers looking to explore even more about Microsoft history and leadership.

About IGNITE Program Work-Based Learning Experience Events:

Virtual Work-Based Learning Experiences are hosted on a virtual platform so students can sign on from anywhere and include an interactive, hands-on STEM activity focused on skill-building and real-world applications, like artificial Intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, or engineering, followed by an IGNITE Panel and Q&A discussion.

About IGNITE Worldwide:

IGNITE Worldwide is a 501(c)3 nonprofit STEM education organization that aims to change gender and racial equity in STEM permanently and systematically. We work directly with teachers during the school day to provide programming that promotes gender equity and representation in STEM academics and careers. Through our award-winning program, IGNITE provides engaging, hands-on events that connect students with STEM professionals from industry leaders from around the world. Learn more at

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