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Student Spotlight: From BLINK to NKU, Gateway alum Momoka Kinder fell in love with cybersecurity

This story is one of an occasional series on local college students and their activities during the pandemic.

By Natalie Hamren
NKyTribune reporter

Gateway Community & Technical College alumni Momoka Kinder fell in love with the world of cybersecurity during her time at Gateway. Even though Kinder is studying cyber security currently at Northern Kentucky University, she still is grateful for the time she spent at Gateway.

Kinder, a Japanese native, came to the United States in 2017 from Japan. She realized her background and her degree from Japan was relatively unknown in the U.S., so she decided to go back to school and get another degree. Kinder searched and found a local community college that was close to her home and applied. She got into Gateway to study computer programming.

Before attending Gateway, Kinder said she had never attended school in the U.S. She was nervous, but loved that Gateway had smaller classes. If Kinder had a question, a professor was available to answer it right away, Kinder said.

Momoka Kinder

“If you want to stand out somehow, you will pretty quickly,” Kinder said.

Kinder said professors pay attention to even the small details about their students—such as who always asks questions in class or who always submits their homework on time. One of Kinder’s professors told her she was hard-working and suggested she join the cyber security team. Kinder did and fell in love with the field, ultimately choosing to study cyber security.

In the cybersecurity club, Kinder accomplished various tasks or “games” that gave the participant experience in cybersecurity. Some tasks were capture the flag, where the “hacker” would have to find a flag hidden somewhere on the website. Kinder said the activity all depends on your team and if you have good members, you can accomplish a lot.

While at Gateway, Kinder was also offered the opportunity to participate in and create an exhibit for BLINK, the Cincinnati-based arts and light festival. Kinder created a version of the game “Flappy Bird” where a voice or sound operated the bird, allowing it to jump up and down through the obstacles.

“It was really [an] interesting experience. During those three days— maybe it’s four days for us — somebody may show volunteers to stay at the exhibition, make sure everything is running. And it was pretty cool,” Kinder said.

Kinder is part of a program that allows Gateway students to transfer to NKU to further their education. Kinder is currently taking classes at NKU to get her Bachelor’s in cybersecurity.

She is an intern for Kroger where she works on various technical projects for the company.

“I am currently involved with an [artificial intelligence] project. Before that, I was involved in, little bit, of effort around geo-fencing for the store. But, primarily, my project is right now AI,” Kinder said.

Even though Kinder is fluent in Japanese and English, she said she still struggles to keep up sometimes — especially with reading.

“I might miss some detail that other people don’t. That’s what I kind of sometimes fear, so that makes me want to actually pay attention and take the time,” Kinder said.

“Recently I started using a text to speech web extension,” Kinder said. “So, it will read as fast as a native [speaker]. I can, kind of, hear better than trying to read.”

One of the reasons Kinder chose to study in a technical field was that she knew her English would never be as fluent as native English-speaker and she didn’t want to end up in a field where she would be criticized for her language.

“I knew that my English would never be as native as an English speaker — someone born here. So, I didn’t want a job that may be, kind of, critical for you to speak fluently, professionally, something like that. I wanted more technical,” Kinder said.

In the future, Kinder said she still is unsure of where she will end up in the cyber security field due to it being so vast.

“I can’t still narrow down what area of cybersecurity because it’s really broad,” Kinder said. “You could be offensive security, defensive security or more forensic kind of personnel.”

For now, Kinder said, she’s happy and content working at Kroger where she said people are always willing to help her out and answer her questions.

“There’s always someone willing to help you—willing to connect with people if they don’t know, not familiar with something. I really like this culture,” Kinder said.

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