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Becoming the Hero: Cybersecurity Major Wants to Use Coding Powers for Good

A student labeling a cyber attack

Mariah Robertson ’23 is forging a path for future Black women coders with big ideas to help York children learn coding earlier and protect the country from cyberterrorists.

You see it all the time in movies and TV. There’s the villain: a hacker, causing mayhem and destruction. And then there’s the hero: a computer whiz, furiously typing with green light reflecting on their face as they hit one final key and save the day—just in the nick of time.

Mariah Robertson ’23 sees herself as the hero. “That’s something I want to do,” she says. “Protect us from the hackers.”

She’s learning how as a Cybersecurity Management major at York College of Pennsylvania.

Making connections

Robertson started her college career at a big school in Philadelphia. It didn’t take long for her to realize that being an anonymous student in a giant lecture hall was not for her. She transferred to York College in 2020 and immediately felt like she’d made the right move.

Small class sizes helped her connect with professors and other students, and she found the people friendly and helpful. After one class, she asked a professor to explain something. He went out of his way to send her articles and make up a practice problem, going through each step with her to make sure she understood.

“I feel more recognized here than I ever would have,” she says. “When you can connect with your professors, it enables a deeper learning.”

The intimate setting made it easier to make friends and actually get to know her peers. It also meant students talked more. “And I’m a talker,” Robertson says with a laugh.

Opening doors

Robertson is not easily intimidated, and the fact that she’s preparing to enter a field currently filled with white men only makes her work harder. “I want to eventually get to a level where people could look up to me,” she says.

She’s hopeful that one day soon, maybe in 10 years, the field will be more diverse and the stereotype of the guy sitting in a gaming chair drinking a Mountain Dew will go away. “We’re just opening the door for other girls to see, ‘Hey, I can do this, too,'” she says.

Robertson took her first computer programming course late in her high school career and realized she had a knack for it. She wants to help York schools develop classes to introduce kids like her to computer courses at a younger age to help diversify the field.

Speaking the language

Coding comes naturally to Robertson. “It’s just like learning a language,” she says. “It seems intimidating, but it’s really easy if you spend the time to understand it.”

She finds the satisfaction of using code to solve a problem incredible. And the job security of working in technology is pretty appealing, too.

She’s set on using her coding powers for good. Helping her mom and grandparents avoid scams is top on her list now. Once she graduates and gets some experience, she can see herself helping protect the country from cyberterrorists.

Then she could truly be the hero, furiously typing with green light reflecting on her face as she hits one final key and saves the day—just in the nick of time.