Apprenticeship Spotlight: October 2021
Updated: Oct 20
MEET JERICA ROLUFS
Apprenticeship: Arvest Bank
MY BACK STORY
My mom was a single mom and we moved around from women’s shelter to women’s shelter. Eventually she met my dad, and we ended up in a more stable situation. It was a lot better, and I started going to school regularly. I actually went to school in Farmington from first grade through twelfth. So it was nice to be able to stay in one place.
Throughout my entire schooling I was always encouraged to do my best and try to learn as much as possible. I was on the honor roll all the time, and I even won awards for good grades and attendance. In middle school, I even got second place in a spelling bee. So education was really important in my growing up.
It was because of my mom that I took an avid interest in video games; we would always play together. And in my early teens, I decided I wanted to be a video game designer or a video game tester. But gender roles in the early two-thousands not being as progressive as they are today, I was basically told that I wouldn’t be able to make a career out of that. Knowing what I know now, I realize that’s a load of baloney, but at that point I didn’t know. So our high school did what a lot of other high schools do with their teens—give them an aptitude test. It told me that I’d be good at architecture, so I thought, Why not?
MY EDUCATION (Part 1)
My first semester of college, I actually went to the U of A here in Fayetteville, where I studied architecture. I understood its principle, but I wasn’t able to get into the mindset. Architecture required me to think outside the box in a way that I just don’t process, and the U of A has one of the most rigorous architecture programs in the country. The teachers pretty much told me, “If you’re not getting it now, you’re not going to get it later on, so you might want to reevaluate.” Yeah, it was pretty eye-opening.
MY EDUCATION (Part 2)
I switched over to engineering, and I was like, “Okay, I’ll do mechanical engineering; it’s really cool and I like robots and want to help people, this is going to be great.” Then I realized as I was having to take out student loans, Wow, U of A is expensive! So I switched over to NWACC to save money and because they had a better student/teacher ratio. It was a lot easier to learn up at NWACC.
MY WORK LIFE (Part 1)
Even though I got my two-year degree in engineering from NWACC, I was still feeling kind of lost because I realized I was only doing this because it was what other people wanted me to do and said I should do. So I told myself I wasn’t going to go back to school and get a four-year degree until I knew exactly what I wanted. So I got a job at Walmart working in the full-service deli in the neighborhood market off of Sunset.
MY WORK LIFE (Part 2)
I worked at Walmart neighborhood market a couple of years, and then I went to work for Serco, Inc., trying to help people with their online health insurance applications. This was in about 2014 to 2016 and the quote, unquote Obama Care stuff was happening. My title was General Clerk II, and I was basically telephone support for that. And, oh yeah, it was all kinds of people, we’ll just say that.
MY WORK LIFE (Parts 3 and 4)
Finally I realized that talking with all those people just wasn’t worth it, and I went back to Walmart and took a job in the optical department as an Optical Lab Technician. I worked at the lab doing things like unpacking uncut lenses and checking for imperfections, and then making sure lenses went through the proper cutting and polishing procedures. At the same time, I was looking for something better, and I believe that’s when I started working at Sam’s Club. At first, I floated around in a couple positions there, helping out wherever necessary. I ended up in the bakery department, and for a while I thought that’s what I wanted to do because it was fantastic. It was a lot of fun and I was really good at it.
And by the way, I actually met my partner while I was working in my first job at Walmart, so he’s been with me for this whole thing. It’s been a journey, my man, it’s been a journey.
MY TURNAROUND MOMENT
I heard about Arvest from our roommate, who worked in their call center. So I started thinking: A job off my feet, sitting at a desk taking calls for better pay and benefits sounds fantastic, and the signing bonus didn’t hurt….
I started as a Customer Service Rep at Arvest in April of 2019. In the beginning, it wasn’t a bad job. We would have our busy days, but it was pretty easy once you learned how to deal with some of the more abrasive people. I had time to paint and crochet in between calls, and then COVID hit and what was once a relatively easy job suddenly became so insanely stressful that it was actually affecting my mental health, in extremely negative ways. So I started looking for other positions within Arvest. I didn’t want to have to adjust to another company and also have a lapse in benefits, so I applied for a variety of positions.
Then one of the supervisors in the contact center told me about the cybersecurity apprenticeship. He didn’t even realize the full depth and breadth of the position I’d be applying for; he just said, “Hey this seem like something you’d be interested in, why don’t you go ahead and put in for it?” What’s the worst that’ll happen, basically.
As far as my “turnaround” goes, I honestly didn’t think I was going to get this. I hadn’t given cybersecurity a single thought to that point. I had applied for an IT service desk position because that’s where my roommate ended up working, and I had more than enough technical knowledge for that, just from working on computers on my own. But I had interviewed for it three or so times, and I never got it. And it was a little annoying—they never told me why I didn’t get it. So I didn’t expect to get the apprenticeship, either. I was positive there were going to be more experienced people up against me.
So I went to the interview really well prepared. I’d been told there were going to be three questioners, and one of them was going to ask technical questions as part of the application process. You had to be able to demonstrate competency and knowledge of some of the core concepts, and those were actually listed on the apprenticeship application.
At the actual interview, there turned out to be only two questioners instead of three. And when we got to the end and they said, “Okay, is there anything else that you want to tell us?” I told them I was actually a little disappointed that I hadn’t been asked any technical questions.
I told them I’d been studying every night before bed for weeks, covering everything that they would want us to know and then some, building off of my own technical knowledge that I had accumulated over the years. And then I showed them, because we were on a Zoom call—I literally held up my notepad and showed them the pages and pages of notes that I’d taken for both the technical concepts and the interview questions that I had prepped for. Apparently that’s what cinched it for me. And the reason they didn’t ask the tech questions was because the “tech” interviewer wasn’t there.
Our classes started this past February and ended in May. We had classes on Zoom three days a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. As far as I know, our instructors were people from Forge Institute. Initially they go over very basic things, because they want someone like me who came in with almost no base knowledge of cybersecurity to come out with a healthy working knowledge of it, almost like a security-plus level of knowledge. So I was extremely diligent. I showed up to class every day on time or early, reading ahead on slides, Googling things I didn’t understand, and writing down every slide for better retention. And it was a really good learning experience because they also had virtual labs and stuff for us to try to try out some of the things that we were seeing and have live demos of things that we’d be looking for.
I’m terrible with names, but I especially remember one instructor named Reuben. He was a fantastic teacher, his technical knowledge was out of this world, and he was very encouraging and had a very good teaching method. Also, people from ACDS would periodically check in and make sure classes were going okay, especially whenever we were doing demos or tests or something. They really enjoyed being involved and seeing our progress and growth. It was really cool.
Currently I work from home pretty much as an analyst. I'm not technically allowed to get into specifics, but I can give generics. Any time our system reports certain issues or flags certain things, I'm one of the people that will go and look into it and either fix an issue or tell somebody else to go fix it. I’ve also been doing a lot of documentation, because apparently that’s a rare set of skills—to be able to understand the technical and also be able to document processes and things and make them understandable on other levels.
My dream for my job has always been to know what I'm supposed to do and be left alone while I'm doing it, instead of someone constantly looking over my shoulder and micro-managing. It was bad that way with customer service and retail. The hardest thing that I have to deal with, honestly, is the imposter syndrome. It’s like, Oh God, what if they find out I'm actually not good at this? But so many of my coworkers can relate, and they help with that as well. So it’s been a really supporting and exciting environment to learn in.