Luke Ahmed, Course Instructor
Obtaining the CISSP showed me that everything that I wanted was possible, but I had to work for it. I had to put in the work. Just because I had "CISSP" after my name didn’t mean everything was going to be handed to me, quite the opposite. The hard work really began after I became a CISSP.
I thought that a month after I passed the CISSP exam, multiple job offers would come my way offering 6-figure salaries without me doing anything. At the time I was making just over $50K as a junior network security engineer.
I thought having “CISSP” after my name would be a huge turn of events in which I quit my current job and jump into a big tech company where I work with the latest cutting-edge security technologies and get familiar with terms like “performance bonus” and “stock vesting periods”.
None of that happened, lol.
What did happen was that I learned something about myself: if I can pass the CISSP, I can do anything I set my mind to. So given the discipline learned over the course of studying day and night, I started to grind day and night at work as well.
I would work all 12 hours of my day shift 7am to 7pm at my job as a network security engineer. Then stay after and hang out with the nightshift until 2am – a 19-hour workday!
I’d wake up the next day at 7am and do it all over again for 4 days straight. What happened now was that everyone in the security operations center (SOC) always saw me there, day and night.
The day crew liked that I knew what happened during the night, and the nightshift enjoyed learning what knowledge I brought from the day shift. The night shift is the graveyard shift and not a lot happens, so a lot of the engineers miss out on the crucial network security hands-on experience that we get during the day.
Not to mention, some strong bonds were formed with the night shift crew – I am now the godfather to one of their children.
My manager and senior engineers saw me all the time. 6-months later when it was time for the annual performance review, I got promoted to Security Engineer Tier II with a 10% salary increase. Not bad, but not great. I wanted more. I was given more responsibility, meaning I got to do a lot more troubleshooting. I started racking up my technical certs: CCNA, SANS, and Checkpoint Certified Security Expert.
These compounded my CISSP – a high-level cert was now looking good on my resume with all the technical certs as well. It showed I knew what I was doing while on the keyboard and while talking to management about business needs – a powerful combination.
1-year later during another annual performance review, I got a 20% salary increase and a promotion to Tier III Senior Security Engineer - still at the same job. I didn’t jump ship. I’m an old school career man like that, I stick with a company if it is good.
As the years progressed, success started to compound itself. From senior security engineer, I was now a Team Lead. I survived two company lay-offs and was offered the position of Director (turned it down) – but the opportunity was there.
Not bad for someone who started off as a junior engineer who didn’t even know how to generate SSH public/private keys!
What the CISSP did was show me that everything that I wanted was possible, but I had to work for it. I had to put in the work. Just because I had CISSP after my name didn’t mean everything was going to be handed to me, quite the opposite.
I wrote a book, started this website, grew this incredible Facebook group, and maintained a social media CISSP presence. But all this just didn’t happen. The days and nights of studying CISSP was a proving ground. I wasn’t born rich or given a trust fund (and good for you if you were born rich, enjoy your life, nothing wrong with that). I am not gifted or naturally talented by any means, so for me, the CISSP taught me that if I want something I have to go back to the basics: days and nights of hard work.
The same days and nights of studying for the CISSP, are the same days and nights required to get what I want. Life was probably teaching me all this the whole time too, but I just didn’t see it, the CISSP showed me the way.
Certifications alone do not make you a security professional, that takes having years of direct hands-on experience. What certifications do is present certain opportunities for you that would have otherwise remained closed. Having the CISSP opened doors for me that I did not even know existed.
I got into I.T. on the bottom rung of a very tall ladder. I was the kid you called if the printer queue was backed up or you needed help setting up the projector. The kind of job where 90% of tickets are completed by a reboot or a power cycle, know what I mean?
The kind of job that motivates you to work as hard as you can to get the heck out of there as soon as possible. I’ve been there - where many of you might be right now. Stuck in a job, looking to make a move!
But passing the CISSP exam changed everything:
Before CISSP (2015)
Job Title: Jr. Network Security Engineer
Salary: Below $80,000
Car: 2004 Nissan 350Z
Living Status: Apartment
Family: Just me and my beautiful wife
After CISSP (2023)
Job Title: Team Lead - Security Operations Center
Salary: Beyond my wildest dreams
Car: 2015 C300 Mercedes Benz
Living Status: House in the suburbs
Family: Father of two little kids
In 2015, I launched Study Notes and Theory - A CISSP Study Guide. For the uninitiated, the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) exam is one of the most difficult and grueling professional exams on the planet. Also administered by the (ISC)2, this elite gold standard security certification has a pass rate of approximately 20%.
Aside from career advancement, higher income, mastery of a new skill, and unlocking multiple opportunities, the greatest prize of the CISSP has been the personal fulfillment of being a CISSP instructor. I receive some of the most heart-warming and kind emails from previous students that not only have passed their CISSP exam using my content, but improved their quality of life years after - that is the true gift of becoming a CISSP. The hard work begins only after you pass the exam.
As of March 2023, I've helped over 3,000+ CISSPs who have used my content to pass their CISSP exam, achieve career highs, and become respected security professionals. I have also had the privilege to write the CISSP book:
"How To Think Like A Manager For The CISSP Exam" - currently one of the top six CISSP exam books to ever be written. If you're studying for the CISSP, chances are you are using my book to do so.
Look, the CISSP exam is hard! Which is why you are studying hard. If it were easy, then everyone would have it. The ultimate goal of Study Notes and Theory is to help you live out your dream of a better life and that of becoming a better security professional, just like it did for me.
I do not give exam guarantees. If you subscribe to my CISSP course, what I will give you is my heart and everything I have to make sure you are a CISSP. You will be able to feel it while watching my videos. This is the only guarantee I have made to CISSPs worldwide for the last 8 years.
This CISSP course is the residue of my creativity, imagination, critical thinking, and information security sector experience.
Whatever path you take, all the best to you: future security professional!
Luke Ahmed, CISSP Instructor