Missouri State University
Lino Perez

Lino Perez

  • Network engineer, ConocoPhillips
  • Bartlesville, Oklahoma
  • BS, computer information systems, 2019

From amateur wiz to pro

Computers have always fascinated Lino Perez. 

A young Lino Perez spent months trying to crack the code.

With his family unable to afford internet access at home, he tried to hack into his neighbor’s Wi-Fi.

He got creative and went online – outside his house in Purdy, Missouri – for tips and strategies.

“I used a combination of an iPod Touch on open Wi-Fi networks in my town, and computers of friends and family,” said Perez, who grew up about 80 miles away from Springfield in Purdy. “The online cybersecurity community was quite generous and gave (me) practice problems, help and different resources."

Perez was doing all this at a young age – he estimated he was around 12 or 13 years old.

Perez saved money and even planned to buy hacking tools.

In the end, Perez figured out how to hack his neighbor’s Wi-Fi but decided against it. Instead, he simply asked to use it.

It was one of his first experiences with computers and cybersecurity. A decade later, he’s on the other side of things: Protecting against such threats.

He is so good at what he does that he won awards while at MSU. He even got a job offer after his employer saw him in action at a competition.

Working with “giant puzzles”

Lino Perez inspecting IT equipment

As a network engineer with ConocoPhillips, Perez has turned his childhood interests into a career. He helps design, deploy and maintain the company’s telecommunications setup.

Perez added other responsibilities within his first six months on the job. These include:

  • Deploying a new software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) solution
  • Refreshing switches and routers at various sites
  • Upgrading and decommissioning equipment in the company’s data center

He’s doing it with a degree and expertise he earned at Missouri State.

Perez, who graduated in May 2019, accepted the job offer from ConocoPhillips while he was still in school.

 “I really enjoy cybersecurity and (information technology) because, to me, they’re essentially just giant puzzles that are able to solve a wide variety of life’s problems,” Perez said.

Why he chose Missouri State

“I wanted to spend as little as possible while getting a great education. MSU provided great value for the money.” 

Perez, like many others, picked MSU for one main reason: cost.

Scholarships made his education even more affordable.

Perez majored in computer information systems. The program recently renamed to information technology (IT). 

“The (IT) program at MSU does a fantastic job of teaching the fundamentals of IT and technology in general,” Perez said. “I learned a lot about systems analysis and design, object-oriented programming and networking.”

He learned the finer points of IT and programming from professors such as Dr. Duane Moses, Dr. Xiang Guo and Dr. Zhiguo Yang. They all teach under the department of information technology and cybersecurity.


‘Pure adrenaline mixed with caffeine’

Lino Perezwith classmates at national competition.

Perez likes to compete. When he was a member of the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) at Missouri State, he put his skills to the test against peers.  

While he had earned honorable mention awards at the 2018 U.S. Information Technology Collegiate Conference (USITCC), Perez knew he could do better.

In the fall of 2018, Perez led the best performance to date for MSU students at the USITCC regional competition. He won first-place (cybersecurity), second-place (office solutions) and honorable mention (network design) awards.

“I honestly didn’t think I’d place that well at regionals, but because I did, it just made me want to win more at nationals the following spring,” Perez said.

Perez was most eager for a rematch in the cybersecurity competition. He knew last year’s winners were returning.

He placed in three competitions:

  • 1st place in cybersecurity
  • 3rd in PC troubleshooting
  • Top 5 in data analytics

At another competition – ConocoPhillips’ Innovation Challenge – Perez performed so well that the company offered him the position he has now.