It’s easy to see that Cory Sales is driven to succeed – both in his career but also in being there for his family. Since 2014, the 40-year-old has earned two associate’s degrees and a bachelor’s degree while working full time and being a husband, dad and grandfather. Though he attended Oklahoma State University-Tulsa a little later in life, his drive to graduate led to his recently being offered the position of senior IT security analyst for all of the Creek Nation casinos in Oklahoma.
Sales, who was born in Tulsa, grew up in Houston where his dad was a financial auditor for an oil company. Not initially interested in computers and technology, he began working for various companies in information technology customer support after graduating from high school.
After working in the Houston area as an IT contractor for a few years, Sales eventually moved to Tulsa to help his grandmother who underwent heart surgery following an illness. Wanting to stay in Oklahoma, Sales began applying for IT jobs and with his broad tech experience was able to easily land a job for ConocoPhillips in Bartlesville as an IT contractor. When that position ended, he went to work for the energy company ONEOK in Tulsa, again in a contract job. But working for companies on a short-term basis began to wear on Sales.
“I really just got fed up with always being able to get into the door of companies but not being able to get the job I really wanted,” Sales said. “How can I fix that? That’s when I decided I needed to go back to school.”
Sales enrolled at Tulsa Community College in 2014 and earned two associate’s degrees, one in management information systems and another in enterprise development. But just before he started classes at TCC, life shifted into overdrive for Sales when he got married. With his marriage he became a father to five daughters from his new wife’s previous marriage while also continuing to work full time and attending community college.
“There were times in my house where I was trying to study for a calculus test and I’m surrounded by all my family,” Sales said. “It took all the effort in the world to get through that.”
Wanting to continue his education, Sales enrolled at OSU-Tulsa in the management information systems (MIS) program taught by faculty at Tulsa and the Spears School of Business from Stillwater. Unlike many of his younger classmates at TCC and OSU-Tulsa, Sales had an advantage when making decisions about the direction he wanted to take in his career and how to get there.
“I knew what I wanted to do because I had already worked for several years in IT in a corporate enterprise level or in smaller company environments,” he said. “I already had experience working on the things people do every day in IT.”
One area that fascinated Sales was computer networks and network security. It almost seemed like playing a video game when you had control over system networks, he said.
“It seemed almost like PlayStation to me. The thought that you could go to a keyboard and if you knew what to type and where to click you could affect millions of people across the world was amazing,” Sales said. “The concept of being able to control a network from one spot and to protect it from people who are trying to be nefarious is just fascinating to me. That’s what I wanted to do.”
In the Spears Business MIS program available on the OSU-Tulsa campus, Sales credits the knowledge and real-world experience of his professors with much of his academic success and subsequently the direction of his career post-graduation. It was in a class with Dr. David Biros, associate professor of management science and information systems, that Sales learned about the many career directions he could take, including becoming a systems information auditor. “That’s when the light switch went on for me and I realized I wanted to work in information security,” Sales said.
Sales said his professors were well tuned into what the IT industry wants and needs in new hires and he said he felt he often had an advantage over other applicants when applying for positions.
“My professors like Dr. Biros and Dr. Jinkyu Lee are all the reasons why I went to OSU,” Sales said. “They know what people in the industry are looking for and they made sure we were prepared for what’s out there.”
Sales said his experience at OSU-Tulsa was positive because of the guidance and mentoring he received, including being selected to participate in the President’s Leadership Society, an academic enrichment and student leadership organization at OSU-Tulsa. Sales said he is grateful for the support and guidance he received from the group’s founder and faculty advisor Dr. Raj Basu, an associate professor of management on the Tulsa campus.
Sales graduated this year with a bachelor’s degree in management information systems and quickly landed a job as the IT manager for the Sand Springs, Oklahoma, Police Department where he worked for only a few months before accepting the position as the senior IT security analyst for the Creek Nation casinos in Oklahoma. With his new position he is currently working on additional information security certification training that he’s pursuing on his own, but he hopes to begin work at some point on an MIS master’s degree from OSU.
When asked how me has managed to get an education, quickly gain greater responsibilities in his career and raise a family, Sales says it’s all about focus.
“You just have to keep going and not quit. You have to keep that end goal in sight,” he said. “Starting as late in life as I did, it was about as stressful as it can get but I kept the faith that once it was done it would be worth it and it has been. Along with marrying my wife, Angela, and raising my daughters, graduating from OSU has been one of the proudest moments of my life.”
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