Three Different Paths to Cleared Cyber Security Roles

Posted by Kathleen Smith

Are you interested in learning about cleared cyber careers? Tune in for the first edition of the CyberWire’s Women in Cyber Security Podcast series to get the inside scoop from three successful cleared security professionals at Northrop Grumman.

The CyberWire is an independent cyber security-focused news organization that serves hundreds of thousands of readers and listeners all over the world. This special podcast and virtual event series highlights women who are making a difference in cyber security, and the path they traveled to get there.

Don’t miss the first installment of the series, as Kathleen Smith from ClearedJobs.Net facilitates a panel discussion with Northrop Grumman employees Priyanka, Ashley, and Lauren. They’ll share their career paths, what made them consider a career that requires a security clearance, and much more.

Take a sneak peek below to find out more about these women and some of the topics they’ll dive into in the CyberWire podcast.


Exposed to the topic of cyber security while participating in a high school debate competition, Priyanka decided to pursue cyber security in college, where she joined the Cyber Scholars program at UMBC. When it came time to enter the workforce she opted for mission-oriented work instead of the commercial realm. “I wanted to work on contracts that produced government products,” explains Priyanka. “It comes down to preference at that point and where you want your skillset to be delivered.”

Priyanka joined a rotational program at Northrop Grumman for recent grads, which exposed her to different kinds of cyber security jobs. From there she became a Cyber Software Engineer, which is her current role at Northrop Grumman. “Every aspect of tech keeps growing every day and I think that’s something we all struggle with,” admits Priyanka. In order to keep up with all the advances in technology Priyanka reads blog posts, listens to podcasts, and reads the CyberWire daily briefing each morning. “I spend some time looking at the technical skillset, but I think overall it’s really important to keep up a broad level of what’s going on in the world of cyber security,” adds Priyanka.


Originally a physics major, Ashley was encouraged to apply for an internship at Northrop Grumman while in college. Though she wasn’t initially looking for a cleared career, she enjoyed supporting our military and decided to take a full-time position at Northrop Grumman. “We emphasize that we are supporting the war fighter, keeping them safe, and helping them to do their jobs as best as possible,” says Ashley. “That underlying motivation has kept me excited about working here.”

In addition to contributing to our military, Ashley also enjoys mission-oriented work because she’s able to work on programs that have been around for 40 years. “It’s really about maintaining legacy systems that are still in use and then increasing the capability,” adds Ashley. As an Artificial Intelligence Systems Engineer, Ashley keeps current by participating in Machine Learning Reading Clubs with her staff group. “It’s great to learn about new things, but then we have to take the additional creative step to see how we can apply those new things in a safe way,” says Ashley.


Growing up Lauren always had a passion for math. Thinking she would become a math professor, she was required to take a computer science course in college. Ultimately inspired by computer science, she pursued and was accepted into the Cyber Scholars Program at UMBC. “Once I started taking more classes in cyber security, I realized it was the career path for me—and I understood that a majority of those positions would require a security clearance,” explains Lauren. “I wanted to find a career that would be challenging, engaging, and contribute to solving the nation’s most complex cyber problems.”

Lauren graduated and accepted a job as a Cyber Software Engineer at Northrop Grumman, where she had opportunities to rotate through various programs and explore different cyber security roles. She recently transitioned to Software Integrated Project Team Lead and Manager on a space program. “When I first started my career, I thought you’re only doing cyber security if you’re actively researching cyber exploits or reverse engineering malware,” admits Lauren. “I’ve come to realize there is so much more than that.”

To find out more about Priyanka, Ashley, and Lauren’s cleared cyber careers, listen to the podcast here.

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 11, 2021 11:44 am

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