After receiving her bachelor’s degree in political science, Pennsylvania-native Amanda Tilley considered going to law school for a JD but took a different turn and started a career in cybersecurity and banking.
Tilley, an information security analyst at a community bank, explains why she chose to pursue a Master of Legal Studies degree at the Kline School of Law and how she’s benefited from graduate legal education.
Was there a moment or experience when you knew the MLS program was right for you?
I am currently an Information Security Analyst responsible for cyber governance, risk and compliance for a $10 billion community bank in New Jersey. When I found out that Kline’s MLS program offered concentrations in both Cybersecurity & Information Privacy Compliance and Financial Regulatory Compliance, I knew it was a perfect fit.
Why did you pick your concentration in the program?
My current role has immediately benefitted from what I’m learning in both concentrations. Both cybersecurity and banking are driven by everchanging regulation on the state, federal, and international level. Knowing both sides allows me to ensure our bank’s policies cover not just security best practices but also the requirements from our applicable regulators. It also helps me find connections and gaps between cybersecurity and banking regulation so that I can have a comprehensive perspective in creating and managing cyber governance, risk and compliance.
What impact has the program had on you?
The program has changed me by allowing me to realize how much time there is in a day. If you want something badly enough, you’ll make the time and be able to balance career, personal life and education. Sometimes it’s not always equal, and certain areas need to be the priority. Following a schedule has really helped me maintain a balance for the long-term. It’s also reiterated how much I love learning about law and helping me figure out a way to incorporate my passion for law and writing into my future career goals.
Professionally, I feel more confident when speaking on cybersecurity policy and banking regulation. This has helped me become an expert resource in the bank, which has provided me more visibility to the executive management.
What has your experience of online learning in the MLS program been like?
Online learning is what you make of it. The effort you put in will be directly reflected in what you learn and your grades. Many professors will establish deadlines throughout the week to keep you on track, but not going into a classroom every week puts the responsibility on you to figure out how to complete assignments on time. Most professors have office hours and ways to connect through email or Blackboard. I highly recommend reaching out to your professors and peers to establish a relationship. It is a little more difficult since the conversations don’t happen as organically as they do if you attend in-person classes. However, it’s in your best interest to participate as much as possible.
Additionally, most lectures are pre-recorded, so you’ll have the flexibility to watch lectures when it fits in your schedule for the week.
What you get from the online MLS is a strong academic program with the flexibility needed to balance work, personal life and education. Keeping a weekly routine of when you watch lectures, complete assignments and complete readings is the best way to be successful in this program.
Do you have any advice for graduate students new to online learning?
Get used to the technology by completing the tour of Blackboard. If you’re not a tech-savvy person, don’t feel intimidated. There are IT resources available to help you become familiar with the tools and systems required for your classes.
Again, it’s important to make connections with your professors and peers. Keep a schedule like you would if you had in-person classes. You may even want to establish a day and time when you “have class.” This way you stick to the schedule and don’t let it get interrupted.
Also, yes, you still need to buy textbooks. Drexel’s bookstore is super helpful and provides exactly which books are needed for your classes and mails them to you if you’re not close to campus.
What would you say to someone considering the MLS program?
Do it! In three semesters, I have grown personally and professionally. All the excuses to not do something will always be there, but the reward of learning from a well-regarded program with the flexibility to continue working full-time is completely worth it. There will be hard days and you will be better for it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.