Sofia Martinez (Illinois Institute of Technology)
Sofia Martinez (she/her) (Information Technology and Management/M.A.S. Cyber Forensics and Security ’22); Rotational Development Associate in a Cybersecurity Role at Northern Trust
Chicago’s diversity, from its people and jobs to its neighborhoods and culture, elevated Sofia Martinez’s time studying cybersecurity at Illinois Institute of Technology into an unforgettable life chapter that springboarded her into the city's tech industry.
“I’ve received an education in a city that represents a range of backgrounds and identities. I can’t really imagine having gone to school anywhere else. During my time at Illinois Tech, I met folks from different countries and cultures, and found my own ideas and perspectives being challenged continuously,” Martinez says.
As part of Illinois Tech’s mission to educate and support all city residents, the Chicago Difference initiative provides wraparound support to students from underrepresented backgrounds. The Chicago Difference support aided Martinez as she sought to reach her goal of helping people in any way possible—in her case, securing digital information that is vital to her employer, Northern Trust, and its thousands of financial customers.
“I’d like to make technology safer and more accessible for everyone, and I figure this will be the best way to make that happen,” Martinez says. “I feel that a career in cybersecurity will combine my passions for both computers and helping others.”
Martinez helped forward the university’s inclusive mission while working on the DevUp Scholars program, an interactive three-year program that exposes high school students from Chicago’s South Side to STEM and prepares them for entrepreneurship, college opportunities, and careers.
“Navigating my own academic career as a first-generation student has been challenging. I’d like to make the journey into higher education easier for others if possible,” Martinez says.
The connections that she made at Illinois Tech and through membership with various organizations, including Women in Cybersecurity, a global nonprofit organization that works to improve diversity in the cybersecurity workforce, and local groups in Chicago’s Bronzeville and Bridgeport neighborhoods, have given her a leg up in a city with an ever-growing tech field, Martinez says. She will stay in Chicago as a rotational development associate on a cybersecurity track at Northern Trust.
“The connections I’ve made within the city are invaluable—I couldn’t think of a better place to formally start my career,” Martinez says. “Chicago isn’t quite a tech hub yet, but I believe it has the potential to be. More startups are founded every year, and companies are electing to either expand in or move to the city. I’d like to not only witness this growth but contribute to it as well.”
Chicago has much more to offer than job opportunities, and this unique culture made Martinez’s choice to stay easy. “All the different food options and art venues were also a huge reason why I decided to stay,” she says. “I’ve been able to bond with friends and understand other people through meals or a walk through an art gallery.”