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Kaila Perry DoD IASP graduate talks about exciting cybersecurity opportunities in the Navy: meets Vice President Joe Biden and participates in White House sponsored Cybersecurity Workforce Pipeline Consortium.

Norfolk State University graduate student Kaila Perry was selected to participate in an event at NSU Jan. 16 where Vice President Joe Biden announced a $25 million grant to support cybersecurity education at 13 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

CHIPS asked Perry to talk about the opportunities she has had working at SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic as a cybersecurity student trainee.

Q: What is your position at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic?

A: I joined SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic in June 2013, as an intern through the Department of Defense Information Assurance Scholarship Program (DoD IASP). During the first summer with SPAWAR, I worked at the Washington, D.C. location and contributed to the development of a policy server for a multicast group used by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

Upon graduating from Norfolk State University (NSU) in May 2014, I began working at the Norfolk, Virginia location of SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic as a Cybersecurity Tools Implementation Specialist, responsible for researching and implementing cybersecurity administrative tools in accordance with information assurance operations. Because I love working at SPAWAR so much, I am currently working part-time while working towards obtaining a master's degree in computer science with emphasis in information assurance.

Q: You are very active in several groups that include cybersecurity and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs. I understand that you were selected to meet with Vice President Joe Biden at an event at Norfolk State University Jan. 15 because you are NSU's top Information Assurance Scholarship Program (IASP) student with a 4.0 GPA?

A: When I first heard about the opportunity I was in shock and filled with so much excitement. I felt like it was an opportunity of a lifetime. But then I had to sit and think to myself, "Why me?" I ended up asking my advisor, Dr. Aurelia Williams, why I was chosen, and she explained to me that I was chosen because I "truly represent the goals of the consortium."

The idea of the [White House sponsored] Cybersecurity Workforce Pipeline Consortium is to increase the cybersecurity workforce by exposing students to different opportunities that will ultimately increase the pipeline of employable students. Because I have successfully completed my coursework, participated in national laboratory/federal government internship opportunities, and extra-curricular research and activities, I was chosen to be a model and proof that the plan of the consortium works.

Q: Can you explain how you were selected for the IASP, what your studies have been and what your school experience has been like?

A: When I chose to change my major to computer science, personally, the course work was often a challenge, but it was always achievable. I am unsure of the specific reason as to why I was chosen for the IASP because the decision was made outside of the university. However, I can say that while at NSU I have always had multiple professors pushing me to apply for any opportunities that they find for students (including internships, scholarships, conferences, workshops, and cybersecurity competitions), and I would do it.

As a result, I gained so many opportunities that I don't think I would have gotten anywhere else. I've had a great experience at NSU. Aside from my coursework, I have interned at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for two summers. I was given the opportunity to be a part of the IASP and join SPAWAR, and most importantly, to me, I've been able to give back and help guide other students at NSU and local high schools.

Q: Mr. Biden announced a $25 million grant to support cybersecurity education at 13 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). What are your thoughts on how to attract more students into cybersecurity fields?

A: As a freshman at NSU I had no idea what I really wanted to do, so I attended school with an undeclared major. In my first semester, I began doing work study with Dr. Jonathan Graham in the Information Assurance Center of Excellence. While working there, I was exposed to the different projects that other students had been working on, and it seemed to catch my interest. To make a long story short, I wanted to see if the forensics projects that the other students had been working on were like what they did on TV ... Of course, they were not, but I enjoyed computer science because there are so many different things that you can do with it--and I just loved the problem solving aspect of it--so I changed my major.

I believe that in order to attract more students into cybersecurity, they first have to be exposed to it. Many students don't know much, if anything, about cybersecurity when they first get into college. It takes cybersecurity awareness and hands on activities for them to truly understand it.

I have found that having workshops for college-aged students and outreach programs for students K-12 age will attract more students to the field. While I have been at NSU, I've gone to high schools to bring awareness to the students, and I have volunteered to help teach students about some of the cybersecurity tools. After they have performed the assigned tasks, the majority of the students seem more enthusiastic about cybersecurity and they are able to reflect on what they have learned.

With that being said, I believe that the most important way to attract students is to get them into cybersecurity as early as possible, because a lot of students stray away from it because they feel that cybersecurity is overwhelming when they know nothing about it.

Q: Did you have an opportunity to speak with Mr. Biden? Did you go to the White House? A: Yes, I had the opportunity to give a demonstration on steganography to Mr. Biden, Governor Terry McAuliffe, and Representative Bobby Scott before the announcement of the grant.

I believe that Mr. Biden was so enthused with my demonstration that when he walked into the room to announce the grant, he shook everyone's hand as he headed towards his seat, and stopped at me and pointed to me as he said "Hire her... You better start your bidding" and all I could do was laugh and smile. It was probably one of the most memorable moments of my life.

After his announcement, before we all left the roundtable, I also had the opportunity to share my experiences, thoughts on the grant, and getting students involved.

The following day, I went to the White House with a fellow student, the Computer Science Department Head, Provost, and President of the University. At the White House, many shared their thoughts and opinions on the grant, and others shared their experiences as students or leaders of HBCUs.

Q: What are your career plans?

A: Upon graduating in May 2016, I plan to continue working for SPAWAR. Long term I'm not sure exactly what I want to do yet, but I've considered going back to school to obtain a Ph.D. and become a professor. If I do become a professor that will be way down the line; but I really love teaching and tutoring students.

SPAWAR--Twitter-- or Facebook--

By CHIPS Magazine--January-March 2015

TAGS: Cybersecurity, Spectrum, Telecommunications, Wireless, Workforce
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Article Type:Interview
Date:Jan 1, 2015
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