Alumni Spotlight: Toby Lin 

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Students may know him as an instructor for their HACS200 course, but Toby Lin’s relationship with ACES goes far beyond this role.

Lin was a member of the very first ACES Cohort in fall 2013. Knowing he was going to be a student in UMD's Honors College, Lin first learned about the ACES Program as a high school senior, researching the various Living Learning Programs that would be available to him. 

Ultimately, ACES appealed to Lin both academically and professionally. “The program made advanced topics accessible to first and second-year students - essentially bringing courses that are normally only available as 300/400 levels to freshmen and sophomores,” he said. “I found out that I could be taking an advanced seminar course while working on research with the NSA laboratories as a freshman!”

Once Lin was integrated into the ACES atmosphere, he found the home that defined his undergraduate experience. 

“It felt like everyone wanted to be there and everyone belonged. We weren't there to compete with each other; we were all just there to learn and have fun together,” Lin expressed. “I think all of those things collectively were my favorite memories as an ACES student - literally the living and learning together aspect of it all.  That's why I decided to apply to be an RA for ACES as well, to continue building the ACES community. I ended up RAing for ACES my sophomore to my senior year in Prince Frederick Hall.”. 

As for the Pool Table Legacy that the first ACES cohort left behind, Lin can’t share any secrets: “At some point, we managed to secure a ping-pong table and a pool table for the lounge--from where? I don't know, but a giant pool table just showed up one day!”

Nevertheless, as any ACES student can share, this sense of community comes hand-in-hand with a well-rounded curriculum, the necessity for a strong work ethic, and unique professional opportunities with cybersecurity corporations. 

This curriculum, Lin noted set him apart during his search for undergraduate internships, the real-world application that gave him the skills and experience necessary to thrive in the cybersecurity field. 

In particular, Lin landed his very first internship at the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCOE) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) helped by this very reason. 

“My mentor there, who also happened to be my interviewer, told me that my ability to talk about relevant cybersecurity trends and concepts as a freshman was one of the things that set me apart from the other candidates,” Lin stated. “In the interview, I discussed the honeypot research project and the secure mobile device research project that I did during my freshman year in the ACES program. Those discussions highlighted my understanding of cybersecurity concepts and demonstrated that I could apply the knowledge from my courses to real-life cybersecurity problems.”

Currently, Lin operates as a co-founder for the company Cyber Skyline, a skills evaluation software platform that allows companies and individuals to identify technical skills and talent, designed to help these companies focus on the human capital component in cybersecurity.

However, Lin did not wait until after he was in the workforce to begin patching various holes in the field of cybersecurity. Instead, he shares, Cyber Skyline began in his Prince Frederick Hall dorm room, with a couple of other ACES students. They were frustrated with the market at the time and wanted to develop a solution. 

“We thought having fancy security tools without the correct human talent to leverage it all is like driving a Formula One race car with a rookie driver,” said Lin.

Now, with CEO Franz Payer, another ACES alumnus, Lin is involved in almost every aspect of Cyber Skyline’s operations: “I love knowing how something works from end to end, going from pre-sales to pitches to delivering the product and supporting the customer, it allows me to really take ownership in something and I enjoy that a lot.”

Nevertheless, between travel, sales, product engineering, and everything in between, Lin still finds time to instruct at his alma mater.

Having frequently been a Teaching Assistant for HACS foundation courses during his time at UMD, when ACES Director Michel Cukier approached him with the opportunity to co-instruct the class, the move from student to instructor was easier than one might expect.

“Ultimately it came down to the fact that this was a great opportunity for me to give back in a meaningful way as an alumnus of the University and the ACES program, said Lin. “I get to learn of all the wonderful and creative ideas that the students come up with for their honeypot projects. There are some super interesting projects being worked on right now and I'm very excited to see their findings.”

Published October 10, 2019