A Cybersecurity Discussion with Sherri Ramsay

Posted by Kathleen Smith

As part of our support for the Women in Cybersecurity Conference, we chatted with Sherri Ramsay, Senior Advisor, CyberPoint International, and former federal employee. Both Sherri and CyberPoint International have been long-time supporters of the Women in Cybersecurity Conference as well as many other programs that support women in cybersecurity. Two years ago, CyberPoint launched the Women in Cybersecurity Celebration.

What Do You Enjoy about Your Career in Cybersecurity

I actually would like to talk about two jobs.

The first job was at the National Security Agency (NSA) where I worked for 33.5 years. There were so many things that I loved about that job.

The first thing was that I had so much passion for the mission of keeping our country safe. This really made me want to get up and go to work every day and give my job the best I could every single day.

The second thing was that there were so many different job opportunities within the NSA. Over the years I had a number of different jobs in a number of different areas working with a wide variety of technologies. So it was really great way to keep my career evolving and to continue to challenge me.

The third thing that I loved was that there were so many smart people there!  I was surrounded by intelligent people that I could learn from and interact with every single day. So for those reasons I can absolutely say that I loved that job and I looked forward to going to work every single day.

After I retired from the NSA, I went to work part time at CyberPoint International. Luckily for me I love my job there too for some of the same reasons, but also for a couple different reasons.

The first reason again is that I am working in cybersecurity. It is not just the government’s job to keep the country safe. It is government, industry, academia, all partnering together to keep our country safe. Again I have that passion for the mission to keep our country safe.

The second reason that I love this job at CyberPoint International is something completely different. I am in a different place in my career and I want to give back to my community. CyberPoint CEO Karl Gumtow is very philanthropic in terms of giving back. He is extremely interested in fostering and advocating STEM education, specifically for women and minorities.

So CyberPoint as a company participates in many events to encourage young women and minorities to get cybersecurity education. A big part of my job is essentially to be the face of CyberPoint for these efforts. I get to do a lot of speaking, mentoring, and teaching. I love doing that at this time in my career. It’s important to me to be able to give back to a younger generation. By CyberPoint allowing me to do this kind of outreach, I am able to accomplish that. For these reasons, I love this job as well.

Share Your Thoughts on Certifications and Continuing Education in a Quickly Changing Profession

I do believe there needs to be some sort of standards, but I don’t know if this is handled through certifications.

When computer science was emerging in the mid- to late-70s, there were only a handful of colleges that offered computer science degrees. And the curriculums at those different colleges were very uneven. Some schools had very technical classes, others had more classes in information management.

Computer science education was really uneven across the board. When companies hired someone with a computer science degree, the company didn’t know the foundation of knowledge that the college graduate had. I think we are in a similar situation today with cybersecurity, as it is just now coming on to the scene.

Even five years ago, there were only a handful of colleges in the U.S. that offered specialties — much less degrees — in cybersecurity, and the curriculum was very uneven. Here we are five years later and we are in a place where more colleges are starting to offer a cybersecurity curriculum, but they are trying to figure out what that curriculum should be and what they should teach. I think in general there needs to be some set of standards that form the basis of a degree or focus in cybersecurity.

The field is fairly complicated because the technology is changing rapidly and the threats in cybersecurity are also changing rapidly. It is absolutely essential that people continue to educate themselves on all the changing threats and technologies. But I don’t think you necessarily have to go back to school to keep abreast of these changes. More and more companies are starting to have educational opportunities like brown bag lunches, or bringing teachers into the workplace to teach what they think their employees need to stay current.

One great way to learn is to learn from your peers. I would encourage everyone to go to company sponsored or networking events because they are a great source of information. Conferences, like the National Women in Cybersecurity Security conference, offer a great way to network, to meet others in the field, to learn more about new threats and technologies, and to interact with representatives from cybersecurity companies.

This is a great way to learn and stay current in your field. There are a number of trade journals and now many of them are available online. It is quite easy to go online and to look up a specific topic and to read a lot about that. People will post white papers. There is a publication called the CyberWire, which every day gives a synopsis of the world in cybersecurity, including the threat, cyber trends, products, technologies, research, academics, legislation/policy, and cyber events so scanning the CyberWire everyday provides a good high-level picture.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 7:00 am

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