Bismarck State College Cybersecurity and Computer Networks student, Riley Mueller, was a top 10 finisher in the first Palo Alto Networks Secure the Future Competition – a grueling months-long national competition against dozens of cybersecurity students from universities across the nation. Other finalists came from four-year universities like Ball State University, Murray State University and East Carolina University.
Additionally, the sophomore was one of five finalists to land a prestigious paid summer internship at Palo Alto Networks corporate headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif.
According to Palo Alto Networks, the Secure the Future Competition was designed to teach students how to “make decisions regarding protection of operational assets through the analysis, comparison and selection of advanced security tools, methodologies and implementation options.”
A 2018 graduate of Legacy High School in Bismarck, Mueller attended BSC full time and worked 30 hours per week as an intern at National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC) in Mandan. The competition required another 15-20 hours of effort each week from Sept. 1 through early January of his sophomore year.
“It definitely took away my free time,” Mueller said.
The competition had four domains each contestant had to work through. The students had assigned reading and did outside research to prepare themselves for the essay questions and multiple-choice tests that weeded out contestants as each domain was completed. Five judges from Palo Alto Networks guided students through the competition.
“The guy running the competition sent progress reports. Every time he sent out an email showing how many were left, it boosted my confidence,” Mueller said.
The final assignment was to complete a report and five-minute video summarization of the domains. The top 10 candidates then were asked to give a 15-minute presentation to a panel of judges at Palo Alto Networks corporate headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., January 12-15, 2020.
The day after the competition, Mueller interviewed for an internship. He was assigned to the systems engineering team and returned to California in mid-May. He roomed with one of his fellow contestants, a student from Georgia, and another intern from Florida.
Mueller earned his associate degree in spring 2020 and returned to BSC in the fall to pursue BSC’s four-year Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Cybersecurity and Information Technology.
Mystic Minds - Riley Mueller from BSC College Relations on Vimeo.