NEWS + ADVICE
General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Cybersecurity and Veterans
We sat down with Nadia Short, Vice President and General Manager, Cyber and Intelligence Solutions, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems to discuss cybersecurity and the role of military personnel in getting the job done for their customers.
How would you describe cybersecurity
NS Cybersecurity is the protection of information. It’s that simple. We want to protect the data we have flowing on our networks and for us, cybersecurity is how we help our customers defend, protect and support their networks and enterprises. That’s it in a nutshell.
Many people see cybersecurity in the news and think, “This is not in my life.”
NS Cyber is ubiquitous. It is in your life every day. And cybersecurity can mean a variety of things. It can mean helping to develop solutions and devices that help protect information; it can also mean doing the forensics of the after-action analysis when someone has compromised your data or network. Cybersecurity is about building the solutions to protect the information, or in many cases, going in after the fact and figuring out how the information was compromised. It also extends to determining how to stop compromises from continuing and integrating that information into your cyber defense posture to fortify the system against future breaches.
What is your favorite component of cybersecurity
NS For me it is all about working with the customers and gaining a better understanding of their mission. For different customers there are different missions. We build systems for our customers that help protect networks and we perform forensics and the after-action analysis for customers. My personal preference is to be on the side of building something and trying to make it better. The forensics side is intriguing to me, but at the end of the day I would prefer to protect the systems and in turn, our customer’s mission.
Why is it so hard to increase the number of women in IT / Cybersecurity
NS I don’t know if it is that difficult. Cybersecurity is viewed as a profession that is built on a foundation of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Historically these professions have been male dominated, but we are seeing this change significantly, and in fact, my largest cyber program is led by a woman. What it comes down to is that the best person for the job is the best person for the job. Cyber professionals do need to hone their skills in the STEM areas. A systems engineer who is focused on cybersecurity has honed their skills so they can better understand what needs to be done to help our customers protect their networks, safeguard their data and advance their mission.
How did your military experience prepare you for your career
NS The military teaches you all about leadership and focus, which is ingrained in you from basic training all the way through your military career. There is this consistent focus on getting things done in a timely, cost-efficient manner and this has been invaluable training for my corporate career.
As to how the military trained me for cybersecurity, I dealt with network security back in the days when we were protecting pipes. Although now we are protecting bits, bytes and everything in between, this background provided me with perspective and insight that has been very helpful in my corporate career. The bottom line is that cybersecurity is not this new thing – if you have a communications, networking or some kind of IT background, it’s not that hard of a transition to move into the cyber area because it is all about information and networks. There are lots of job skill sets in the military that translate very well into cybersecurity. Individuals transitioning out of the military shouldn’t be concerned about finding that perfect fit right off the bat. Instead, they should focus on coming in, working hard and getting the job done because there will be a good deal of learn by doing along the way.
At General Dynamics, something we do very well is we bring people in and mentor them, aligning them with senior people so they can have a graceful learning curve. We want them to learn their job and also how to work within a commercial, corporate environment. Part of the challenge is understanding how a business works, which often times is different from how the military operates. I was very fortunate to have good mentors along the way who led by example and taught me how to be a business person and a productive member of the corporate world.
Any military personnel who are coming out of the service, I would give three fingers for because they have the mission understanding in spades. I can’t buy that or replicate that kind of in-depth mission knowledge. These are the kind of people we want to join our team and mentor. My engineers that are getting right out of the universities are solid prospects who have the skills and the know-how to get things done, but they don’t have the unique mission-centric context that someone in the military does. Can you imagine the power of matching up an individual with 30 years of military experience and really understands the mission with these young engineers who have a fresh and innovative way of looking at things? That would be one powerful combination.
Did you take it upon yourself to expand your education and training
NS I took college courses while in the service but my job in the military had me deployed frequently, so it was a bit of a challenge to concentrate on school and my responsibilities with the military. When I came to General Dynamics, they generously helped me finish my bachelor’s degree and supported me throughout my MBA degree. General Dynamics was dedicated to my mission of advancing my professional career and understanding of the corporate world. And they did this in part because I was loyal and driven – two of the things I learned in the military – and General Dynamics was willing to make the investment in me as well.
What are your key pointers for transitioning military women
NS I recommend reaching out to a network of people who have already made this transition for ideas on how to go about looking for their next job. I didn’t have this and managed to land in a great place, but I would have appreciated the guidance and insight from someone who had already retired of how to make that smooth transition to the private sector.
Adding experience in the private sector to your military career is what it is all about. When you join a company be sure they value your experience and provide you with a roadmap of your job and clear direction on your career progression.
Any additional thoughts
NS Don’t be afraid – making the transition from the military to the corporate world is not as hard as you think. I think the biggest thing that most people find is that you are not on call 24/7 and waiting for the phone to ring to deploy somewhere. This really allows you time to focus on you, your family and to start a new chapter in your life. You should really embrace this – it’s not a scary thing.
Finally, when considering a move to the private sector, a person should determine whether or not they desire a second career or another job after retirement. The nuance of this is important and often a question I ask folks when I interview them.