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Gregory Alfaro

Senior Security Engineer at GitLab

Computer Science, B.S. '17

How did your program at Biola prepare you for your career?

The CS program at Biola laid the groundwork for my career as an exploit developer. Learning the fundamentals of programming languages in C/C++ was pivotal to being able to navigate the myriad of languages that I would encounter in my career as a security person. It's been said before by people more eloquent than I, but if you know the fundamentals, you can typically navigate your way around more complex terrain regardless of how the field evolves.

One of the major criticisms that my peers had during the program was that the languages and concepts seemed archaic or outdated. I've worked as a part of a Silicon Valley startup, performed Web 3.0 penetration testing, and developed product security for a DevOps shop that serves global clients. Through all of this, I've found that there is absolutely nothing new under the sun. The languages evolve and mutate and databases try to shake query languages, but ultimately all these abstractions boil down to the fundamentals taught in the CS program.

What did you appreciate most about your time at Biola?

I truly appreciated the professors in the CS department. Dr. Lew, Dr. Lin and Dr. McCarty have great knowledge and experience that readily lend themselves to the students of the program. I greatly appreciated Dr. Lew's experience and expertise in my databases course as it was the first skill that set me apart for my pentesting position. The level of depth that we reached in that class was critical to my career success and I am truly grateful to have had such an excellent instructor for that time in my life.

Dr. Lin's superlative experience with programming languages and concepts is unparalleled by anyone I've met so far. I can't stress enough how crucial it is to sit under a wise man like him during such a formative time during my college years. His constant challenging and commitment to excellence was something that gave me the confidence I needed when it came time to accomplish projects that I normally would have shied away from. "Lets reason about it" is timeless.

How did Biola equip you to be a more faithful follower of Jesus Christ?

It takes a great deal of spiritual maturity to try to tie in discipleship and faith to this career field. Dr. Lin was key in helping me realize that in everything we do, we need to work steadfastly unto the Lord. Behind a keyboard is no exception. When you develop presentations to put forth your work, you're not only representing yourself or your company, but you're representing Christianity to a world that has a skewed and maligned understanding of it. The theme for my graduation year was "Courage to have conviction" and it has stuck with me ever since. I'm unafraid to stand for my beliefs, even if that means losing an interview, client, or even job. We absolutely cannot back down in the workplace for Christian values. Heb 11:36-39 represents the Christian in this greatly persecuted career field. We can't shy away from our calling, for our reward is eternal.

What advice would you give to students considering your degree program?

This career field is a spiritual battlefield. Hands down, the career field is rife with moral relativism and has moved from rejecting to outright prohibiting Christian values. Now more than ever, we need strong Christians in this career field. Yes, you will likely be paid well and given worldly comforts and yes, it's fairly easy to get a job. The thing is, all of this comes with the cost of having to face the temptation, daily, to take up your cross and live as a Christian or to assimilate and bend the knee to the false god of relativism. Truth matters and it's increasingly being assaulted in this career field.