Computer security grads make
quick progress in the working world © Dec. 17, 2010, Norwich University Office of Communications

Computer security is growing faster than other industries, and Norwich graduates are staying on top.

Godfried EdelmaniStockphoto.comComputer security is growing faster than other industries, and Norwich graduates are staying on top.

Chris Pashley is living a “win-win” scenario. The 2010 Norwich University graduate is employed as a computer security professional during a time when demand for people with his skills is growing rapidly, and he is exactly where he wants to be.

“Between the experience I’m gaining and being able to work with government in the heart of D.C., I’m right where the action is,” said Pashley, a computer security consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, a Virginia high-tech consulting firm.

Pashley, who studied in Norwich’s computer security and information assurance [CSIA] program, also recently passed the Certified Information Systems Security Professional [CISSP] examination, an independent information security certification. Pashley’s accomplishment is rare for two reasons. As of June 2010, there were only a reported 68,000 CISSP-certified people in the entire world. Second, Pashley, as well as his Booz Allen Hamilton colleague and fellow Norwich grad Wendell Watson, ’09, passed on the first try.

Chris Pashley at his May 2010  graduation.

  2010 grad Chris Pashley

“I know of people with a lot of experience taking the CISSP three and four times and still not passing,” said Jon Allen, Booz Allen Hamilton senior associate and 1994 Norwich graduate. “Being a cleared and certified information-security professional is a great way to assure employment after college.”

Watson, a systems security engineer who supports a Department of Defense agency, remembers the feeling of walking into the exam in Sept. 2009. It’s not something you quickly forget, he said. Watson logged many hours preparing for CISSP, including a one-week “boot camp” training course, study sessions with fellow employees and after-hours study on his own. He was motivated by the knowledge that his job required the certification, and the simple desire to take it one time only.

“There’s a lot of correct answers and you have to pick the best one. That takes experience,” he said.

The five-hour multiple-choice test was difficult, said Watson, but he was prepared. He credits Norwich with providing a solid foundational knowledge.

Anyone who has been victimized by identity theft, found malware on their computer or had a credit card compromised knows the importance of computer security. James Gosler, a veteran cybersecurity specialist who has worked at the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Energy Department, estimates there are only about 1,000 truly qualified cyber-security experts in the U.S. today, and the country needs a force of 20,000 to 30,000.

“There is a significant risk to the nation’s cyber-infrastructure, and if we don’t protect it we could lose our national economy through lots of cascading impacts,” said Allen.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports employment for computer and information systems managers is expected to grow about 17 percent by 2018, faster than the average for all other occupations. Businesses will continue to install sophisticated computer networks and set up more complex intranets and websites. Computer security experts will fill key leadership roles in information technology departments and national defense.

“Being able to have the slightest impact on national security and national defense has been important to me for a long time,” said Pashley. “I’ve always believed in giving back to my country in some form. If this is the way I can do it, I am more than thrilled to do so.”

Pashley also credits the rigor of his preparation at Norwich, an internship at Booz Allen Hamilton between junior and senior years and exam preparation for his CISSP success. That’s music to Prof. Danielle Zeedick’s ears.

“When our students graduate, if it has the word ‘computer’ in its name they are well prepared for just about any job in IT,” said Zeedick, director of the Norwich CSIA program. “In the security field, we have people going into computer forensics and going directly into contracting with the federal government down in Washington to work on mission assurance.”

The Department of Defense requires that all computer security employees have a certified credential, added Zeedick. Other agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency are following suit.

She believes graduates like Pashley and Watson are well prepared for the CISSP because many faculty members in the Department of Computer Science/CSIA have years of practical and professional experience in the field.

“Between me, [Prof. Michel] Kabay and [Prof. Peter] Stephenson, we have more than 100 years of combined experience,” she said.