October is “National Cyber Awareness” month. To better understand this growing and ever-changing field, University of Maryland University College’s (UMUC) Office of Career Services is highlighting the University’s cybersecurity experts to examine career and industry trends, and to provide students and alumni a chance to learn about different career paths within this industry.
Recently, UMUC Cybersecurity Faculty member and Information Systems Security Manager John Galliano sat down to speak about trends and insights into cybersecurity with regards to the Department of Defense. John Galliano is the Information Systems Security Manager (ISSM) for the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Pacific. In his ISSM role, Galliano provides cyber leadership and security oversight for information systems across the Pacific Theater of Operations whose mission is to deliver responsive, world-class information technology services to Department of Defense war fighters. Galliano spends most of his time doing vulnerability management and incident response/forensics.
Over his 30+ year career, Galliano has pursued many roles to include meteorology, education and training, and information technology/security within the Air Force and other federal Agencies. He has been teaching with UMUC for about seven years starting at the University’s UMUC Asia Division, in Seoul, Republic of South Korea.
Galliano is known to be a steadfast advocate in focusing cyber security on people, processes, and technology. He volunteers as a Cyber Patriot mentor for a local high school team. He is also active with the University of Hawaii/State Department of Defense Cyber Po’oihe (Tip of the Spear) Cyber Range Exercises, designed to foster cybersecurity skills for Hawaii-based active duty, National Guard, and private sector cyber personnel.
As a cyber security practitioner and a product of the UMUC system (MS, 2001), Galliano is happy to help other learners in their own journey.
Q. In your role as Information Systems Security Manager with the Defense Information Systems Agency Pacific, how important is cyber security with respect to identifying possible cyber threats both foreign and domestic?
A. One line of thought holds that World War III starts as a cyber conflict. Some think the battles have already begun. If the 2007 attacks on Estonia were an early turning point, Stuxnet was an over-the-top, no holds barred primer on cyber warfare. More recently, we’ve seen the hugely damaging OPM breach/data exfil, attacks on Ukraine’s power grid, the rise of ransomware, cyber actors meddling in our democratic process and the worst distributed denial of service attack in history occurred only a week ago. Newsweek famously reported in 2015 that the United States was hit with 77,000 cyber-attacks per day. Thus, cybersecurity professionals are critical in identifying and mitigating these powerful threats.
Q. What career paths could one pursue working in cybersecurity, especially working for the Defense Information Systems Agency?
A. DISA is the agency charged with operating, maintaining, and defending the Department of Defense Information Network (DoDIN). That said, there are many opportunities to serve our Nation by working at DISA. There are over 6,000 employees across 80 occupational areas, including information assurance, system administration, computer engineering, cryptography, telecommunications, infrastructure, software development, acquisition and procurement, logistics, and finance. DISA offers a robust intern program and strongly supports job rotation and professional development.
Q. What inspired you to pursue a career path in the cybersecurity field? What education path did you pursue? How did you begin your career?
A. The Air Force taught me to value education and to pursue lifelong learning. I discovered UMUC was there serving right alongside of us, so you could say UMUC inspired me. During my time in the Air Force, I attended several different undergraduate colleges, including UMUC. I completed my Master’s program entirely with UMUC Europe. My Air Force experience combined with my UMUC education provided a solid foundation for success.
Q. How have some of your career experiences shaped you into the professional you are today?
A. I certainly took the scenic route! I grew up on a farm where you learned to be self-sufficient and often made due with what you had at hand. I entered the Air Force as an electronics technician working on the SR-71 Blackbird and U-2 Dragon Lady spy aircraft. Following that, I worked in the weather field for the remainder of my 24 years in the Air Force. I was fortunate enough to be in weather during the transition from paper charts and analog forecasting to computer analyses, meteorological satellites, and atmospheric modeling. That cast me often in the roles of system administrator and technical program manager. From there, it was a natural move into full time information technology. Although I loved IT work, I found my real calling in security, specifically in cybersecurity. I found this to be the perfect melding of my tinkering, electronic, and computing interests.
Q. What personality and character traits must cybersecurity professionals possess?
A. I think cybersecurity professionals must be passionate about what they do. That involves persistence, tenacity, and a strong work ethic. They also need a high degree of resiliency and willingness to continually learn and update skills.
Q. What advice would you give UMUC students entering the field of cybersecurity?
A. I tell my students to find an area they are passionate about because cybersecurity is challenging, demanding, and fast-moving, but also enormously rewarding. To be successful, you need to cultivate broad-based expertise across information technology. You also must apply cybersecurity to the business or organizational mission.
Q. For UMUC students and alumni already working in the field, what advice would you give them on how to keep advancing within the industry?
A. Stay hungry and don’t ever stop learning and challenging yourself. As soon as you become satisfied with where you’re at, you’re done in this field. Seek out opportunities to lead and to grow. Impart your expertise to others. Never forget where you came from.
Q. Any final thoughts or recommendations you want to share with UMUC students and alumni?
A. Make the most of your time at UMUC. Have fun, learn to hack, and get involved in a cyber competition team like UMUC’s Cyber Padawans.
For more information on career opportunities and resources available to UMUC students and alumni from the Office of Career Services, click here.
Jennifer Tomasovic is the director, Communications for Career Services and Alumni Relations at University of Maryland University College. She has spent her 15 year career crafting communications strategies and messages using both marketing and public relations tactics enhancing the brand and reputation for both the clients and organizations she has represented.