After spending 10 years working in sales, she opted to start anew and head back to school

Talise Geer finally reached the breaking point when she was offered a promotion, of all things.

Well, some might not have considered it a promotion. Really, it was a job title with more work responsibility. And no raise for an underpaid sales job that Ms. Geer despised.

“That is what did it for me,” she said. “It broke me. It was a lot of responsibility and I felt like I was shouldering a lot of the work myself, like I was doing the work of three people.”

That was just the final impetus Ms. Geer needed to go back to school and pursue a new career.

Ms. Geer worked in sales over 10 years. She was successful, but unfulfilled. More than that, she was deeply unhappy. The stress and pressure of meeting quotas along with her sense that she was in a dead-end job with no room for advancement was taking its toll. She dreaded Sunday nights and Monday mornings.

She asked herself, “Why am I torturing myself? Why am I doing this?”

It got to the point where Ms. Geer felt she had no choice but to find another profession. The woman, who lives in Wading River with her husband, Walter, and 6-year-old daughter, Ayaan, was looking for something in the way of job security. She hopes to find it in cybersecurity.

Ms. Geer searched for jobs that offer security, proper compensation, room for growth and good health benefits. Cybersecurity checked all the boxes.

In her research, she came across an interesting nugget. “Cybersecurity,” she said, “they have a zero-percent unemployment rate. Then I read about how they’re in demand.”

While still working, Ms. Geer took her first intro to networks class at Suffolk County Community College in Selden on Saturday mornings in the fall of 2019. A new chapter in her life had begun. She took more classes her second semester and did well, studying hardware, software and reconfiguring switchers and routers at the college’s lab.

Being a wife, mother, employee and student all at once wasn’t easy. Ms. Geer said she would put her daughter to bed and then study from 8 p.m. until midnight.

“I had to make a choice on a couple of nights: Are you going to work late or are you going to do your schoolwork?” she said. “And I had to make a decision, and unfortunately there were nights when I couldn’t put as much time as I wanted to in my schoolwork because life called, work, just paying the bills.”

Ms. Geer completed her classes at SCCC in December. Earlier this month she was notified that she is one of 15 state-wide finalists for the Vanguard Student Recognition Award, which honors outstanding students enrolled in career and technical education programs that prepare them for professions that are not traditional for their gender. The award is presented annually by the Nontraditional Employment & Training Project, an initiative administered by SUNY/Albany’s Center for Women in Government & Civil Society in partnership with the New York State Education Department.

“I’m just happy that I was nominated,” said Ms. Geer, who hopes to be among eight winners selected and recognized at an awards ceremony in Albany in the spring. “I was shocked.”

“Talise started with very little computer knowledge, but she fought through every challenging course, and she has continuously improved substantially with each class,” assistant professor of cybersecurity Susan Frank said in a SCCC news release. “Talise always comes prepared for class, hands in all assignments on time, and shows enthusiasm for every topic.”

At the end of this month Ms. Geer will begin online classes as a full-time student at New York Institute of Technology and work towards a master’s degree in cybersecurity. She already holds a master’s from Rutgers University for global affairs with a concentration in terrorism as well as a bachelor’s degree in sociology from SUNY/Old Westbury.

“It took me a while to get here,” she said, “and it wasn’t an easy decision, but I felt like deep down I had to do it.”