Excelling in Cybersecurity: Dr. Tim Nedyalkov’s Story with UoF
Excelling in Cybersecurity: Dr. Tim Nedyalkov’s Story with UoF
The University of Fairfax alum, Dr. Tim Nedyalkov, is no stranger to hard work. Dr. Nedyalkov moved from a small country in Eastern Europe to New York for a few years before being accepted to the University of Sydney in Australia for his master’s degree in IT Management. He packed up and moved his life to another new continent and found he enjoyed the weather and decided to stay as long as he could. After his own extensive research, he chose the University of Fairfax for his doctorate education to further his career in cybersecurity. Since graduating from our Doctorate of Information Assurance program, Dr. Tim Nedyalkov has accomplished many things and learned a lot more about the world of cybersecurity.
After Dr. Nedyalkov finished his master’s degree in IT Management, he was leading the information and cyber security practice for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the largest public broadcaster in the country. Three years later, he decided it was time to progress his education and career with a doctorate degree in cybersecurity that would naturally push him forward. “I did not want to do a PhD or a doctorate degree in an area that would just be an extension of things I already have experience with,” he explained. So, with his shortlist of universities that provided that, he reached out to alumni from Fairfax to solidify his choice. He spoke with an alum who moved from the US to New Zealand and provided him with details about how UoF would work with him for his education: “When I look at my experience and how this person actually articulated his experience, it was in alignment with what I expected.” He respected his comments as this alum had a lot more senior experience than he and he wanted to follow that path. In continuing his research, Dr. Nedyalkov met with someone from UoF. “After that, I had a session with someone in [University of Fairfax’s] faculty,” he said, “who gave me more insights to the structure of the program.” That combination solidified his choice: “it was not easy, obviously you are doing a doctorate degree ideally once. And it was a commitment I really wanted to make sure that I not only read all the materials that are available, but also hear from people who graduated.”
Following along with his choice, Dr. Nedyalkov gained a lot of insight from the UoF alum that he spoke with in his research. One of his two major deciding factors was based on the courses that we provide our Doctorate of Information Assurance (DIA) students. “They were not basic courses, which was very important for me. I didn’t want to be in a situation where I need to go back and learn about security from the [beginning],” he explained. He goes on to talk about what he found with our course descriptions.
“When I read the descriptions of all the courses, they sounded very solid… because the majority of professors and teachers that were teaching the courses they come with industry experience. They had really high expectations for us students,” he recalled.
His second deciding factor for choosing UoF was that our students could do research on different cybersecurity topics for their dissertations and classroom assignments. One example he gives: “For some of the assignments, we had to submit not necessarily solutions for problems, but more concepts what we think a solution could look like. We got a lot of positive feedback from our lecturers, which was very beneficial to frame how I wanted to search in my dissertation.” He goes on to describe that this format was unique to his experiences at UoF. “I’m not quite sure if even in some traditional universities that they have that mixture of ‘here’s how cybersecurity will be beneficial to you as a professional’ and going through the motions with specific processes and expectations [in cybersecurity].”
The University of Fairfax’s doctorate programs are developed to include the dissertation process within classwork so that students do not work without guidance. Dr. Nedyalkov enjoyed this process in his education. He was able to submit assignments that were able to focus and assess the feasibility of his dissertation topic in his classes, “I already got a lot of insights on how I should be approaching the whole, big topic.” He explained that his colleagues had topics in their own doctorate programs that should’ve been checked in small doses every step of the way. He had the advantage of just that at UoF. “It was extremely beneficial,” he recalled, “and I got a lot of important [feedback] early on instead of spending months if not years putting things together and then realizing how off-track it was… Based on conversations with my peers, I think its probably one of the unique things the University of Fairfax has been doing well.” He also enjoyed that for his dissertation defense, it was held virtually and that he didn’t have to go to multiple meetings and meet multiple people within multiple days.
In general, Dr. Nedyalkov enjoyed his time at the University of Fairfax – from the admissions process to his learning experiences. When it comes to professors and faculty, he calls out Dr. Timothy Sorber. “I’ve learned a lot from him, he really challenged me, especially at the beginning part of my dissertation,” he described. The other thank you he wanted to extend was to Dr. Lauren Van Talia because of her assistance with his dissertation. “She was fantastic in helping me through the final parts, where I was exhausted and just wanted to go through the motions. She was always there.” He says that despite never meeting them in person due to the online nature of his program, “but having that connection [with them] on a daily basis really helped me.” He then recalled a time in his synchronization sessions with Dr. Webb. While most of our faculty and staff are in the United States, Dr. Nedyalkov was in Australia. So, he was signing on at four a.m. his time to attend his classes. He explained that Dr. Webb would allow him to present first so that he could get his attendance and then return to bed once he was finished. “He was fantastic!”
In regard to his sync sessions with his classmates and peers, he described that he was able to bounce ideas off of them as opposed to being stuck in group projects with them.
“I was lucky enough that in my group of sync sessions, we had people with diverse backgrounds. We had people from active duty or former military, corporate side – we had people with educational backgrounds with government agencies. It was great for me to hear the perspectives of different people on the same problem… Really, for me, that was extremely valuable.”
He also described that he learned a lot from his time at UoF. Upon finding one of the very first papers he turned in during his program, he reflected on the material and realized how far he had come in his education and knowledge.
Since graduating from the University of Fairfax, Dr. Nedyalkov has spoken at over 50 conferences, including CyberCon Melbourne, the largest Cybersecurity conference in Australia. He has had a paper published that later became a selected paper with over 700 downloads. He has been recognized in 40 Under 40 in Cybersecurity. He was a finalist for the 2022 Cybersecurity Awards Personality of the Year. His most important accomplishment is his work with his current employer, Australia’s largest financial institution – Commonwealth Bank of Australia, where he leads cyber security for Retail Banking. “I’m pretty sure my doctorate degree has something to do with my accomplishments!”
Dr. Nedyalkov describes that his wife supported him through all of his educational journey. And not only that, but the flexibility of our program and his own motivation helped him complete his program. “When you give up on the momentum once, it’s very difficult to recover,” he said.
On recommending The University of Fairfax to others: “Absolutely!” He describes that UoF not only taught him the technical skills he needed in cybersecurity, but also skills in academic writing. And his writing skills have helped him in speaking at conferences and speaking with his fellow cybersecurity professionals. “I’ve got a lot more [from the University of Fairfax] than I expected.”
His future goals include writing more papers for publications. He also sees possibly teaching cybersecurity in the future. He wants to continue to learn and develop as cybersecurity does.