BA 1995, Classics
Cyber Security Specialist at General Dynamics Information Technology
I have a very unusual path and done a number of things in my life which I will share with you undergraduates.
I graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1995 with two BAs in Classics with a concentration in Latin and History.
I taught middle school Latin for three years at private schools before deciding I wanted a higher degree. Having had the fortune to excavate in Pompeii during my first summer of teaching, I got bit by the archaeology bug and decided to do my PhD in it, as I did not love Latin enough to go and get my PhD in the language.
I spent four years of my life living in England and pursuing my PhD, which I did not successfully get in part because I had grown disillusioned with the prospects and could not get a job anywhere in Europe even if I completed my degree. So I finished up my MA in Archaeology and came back to the US to teach Latin, among other subject areas, at the high school level in public school. I did that for four years. While teaching I became interested in law enforcement and starting taking courses to become a federal law enforcement officer. Although that never materialized, I did end up becoming a local police officer for a year and completing my BS in Criminal Justice, focusing on computer crimes, in 2010 after I left the police department. I had enjoyed the computer forensics courses and other IT classes, so I discussed with the school where I received my BS if they offered a Masters in Computer Forensics; they said they did not, but recommended I go into Information Technology.
I finished my MS in IT in 2012 but I did not get my first information assurance position until 2014, when a small company in Northern Virginia gave me the opportunity to get my first hands-on experience in the field. I was working a variety of other jobs as I had a small child with an ex-wife who did not work and stayed at home with our daughter.
I have worked for the US federal government my entire IT career as I have a very high security clearance and, although the commercial side of IT has its pluses and minuses, I like the fact that I am helping to protect our country from internal and external threats.
I have worked as an Information System Security Officer (ISSO), which involves a lot of policy and writing as well as explaining how the controls for the government guidelines will be implemented. I worked for the GS, DISA and DHS for my first company. I then went to work for a much larger company, Leidos, as a security control assessor; this is the IT technical person who tests and makes sure that systems are properly hardened and protected from internal and external threats for the Department of State. I then went back to working for a small company for DHS, working at their main call center for reporting cyber incidents from federal agencies as well as the general public. I am now working again for a huge company, GDIT, where I am doing IT for an undisclosed agency.
Every degree that I have earned, I have used in my professional life. My Classics degree (I started taking Latin when I was 12) has played a crucial and important role in my life. I still use many of skills I acquired from translating Cicero or Horace in my daily life, although many would not see it building upon my skills as an archaeologist and police officer to assist me in performing my daily job functions. I like the challenges that IT gives because it is constantly changing and new skills are needed, much like being able to analyze a complex sentence in order to give the proper English translation.