Leonel Dos Santos was born in Lisbon and moved to Manchester when he was 13. Leonel completed his undergraduate degree in Computer Networks and his master’s in Cyber Security, Threat Intelligence and Forensics at the University of Salford. Leonel has certainly put his skills and knowledge to good use, recently landing himself at global IT giant, Microsoft.

I caught up with Leonel about life as a Salford student and how his career has progressed so far 💭

Why did you choose to study at Salford? 

Well firstly, I had to do some thorough research about the University, its pioneering heritage, culture and legacy and I liked what I read. The University has been industry-focused, daring and developing the skills of working people for years. I was also aware that the University possessed strong industry links and a variety of professional accreditations, which showed that the quality of the courses were very good. When I attended the open day to find out more about the course I wanted, I was showed around the campus in a very friendly manner, and I noticed that the University had many people from different cultures and ethnicities, which made me feel comfortable and welcomed. Finally, the course modules matched 100% with what I wanted compared to the rest of the other universities that I had applied to, not to mention its perfect location to the city centre.

Can you tell me about the course you studied? 

My master’s degree course consisted of five modules. The modules were: Cyber Forensics; Cyber Threat Intelligence (which also included malware analysis); Information Security in Practice; Penetration Testing, and a project for the MSc. My project was based on the categorisation of different types of cyber-attacks that different Network/Host Intrusion Detection Systems (NIDS/HIDS) are good or bad at detecting.

What did you find most beneficial about the course? 

This course was very practical as I managed to learn how to deal with cyber threats and see how they work, using different technologies that companies use in real time to detect threats. I am more of a technical person rather than a theory-based person, and the fact that the course was more technical, it helped me to familiarise with my previous and current company’s different technologies. I am aware that there is a significant worldwide skills shortage in this area, particularly for graduates with the in-depth cyber security technical knowledge, which means there will always be plenty of jobs in this field of study. On top of everything, this course is extremely beneficial because I can work in a wide variety of technical security roles within business, banking, software, networking, government, consultancy, etc. Typical roles could include malware analyser, penetration tester, information security manager, security consultant or security programmer.

Did you find Salford fostered your talent?

Salford definitely fostered my talent! Salford helped me to nurture passion in my field of study, setting learning goals, and assigning stretch projects.

Can you tell me about your new job role and how it came about? 

I am a Cyber Security Customer Engineer. I provide technical leadership for Enterprise customers around the world, to help ensure their environments are kept secure, are optimized and healthy through proactive and consultative services, delivered either remotely or on-premises. This includes guidance on recommended practices, risk assessments, migrations, solution and architecture review, remote and dedicated support services. Our key relationships are with our customers’ third-line infrastructure support teams, security architects, SOC analysts and risk management teams, so I need to be confident working in a multiple-disciplined team. The hiring process was tough but because I practiced in advance and did thorough research on the job role and the company, I managed to smash every single interview stage.

What is a typical day like working for Microsoft?

I focus on providing proactive knowledge transfer and guidance to ensure our customers’ technical teams have the skills to deploy, operate and maintain their cloud solutions in adherence with Microsoft recommended practices. I solve complex technical problems through sound and creative troubleshooting. I implement, manage and troubleshoot Microsoft Azure based security solutions. I also examine possible workarounds and escalations as required. I do lots of different things simultaneously, which makes it interesting as I am constantly learning something new.

What advice would you give to students looking to follow in your footsteps? 

Do not ever lose focus on what you want to achieve. You can go out with friends and have fun every now and then if you want but do not forget your goals and do not let any negative comments from anyone deviate you from your objectives. If you haven’t passed a module or did not get the grade you wanted, that is absolutely fine because I do not know anyone who is successful today that has not failed a test or a module, just prepare well and resit whatever it is that you failed. I have failed modules and exams before, yet I still successfully completed my Bachelors and Master’s degrees and I am now working for one of the biggest companies in the world.

When I was at university, the main thing we all focused on was getting high grades, but some of our lecturers used to tell us to focus on overall development rather than marks. As students we never realised the importance of that at the time. Now that I am already working in the industry, I realise that everything that was said was true.

The University of Salford helped me to accomplish my goals, if I have managed to accomplish them, so can you!

What are your hopes for the future? 

My hope for the future is to progress into becoming a senior in cyber security with extensive knowledge in my field of study and teach the next generation about the importance of cyber security, especially when it comes to the internet or cloud safety. I also want to be part of major cyber threat intelligence projects that will help the overall safety of every citizen around the world.

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