Photo: David Forbes studio portrait

David Forbes ’93 Principal, Booz Allen Hamilton

NORWICH RECORD | Winter 2022

I joined Booz Allen 17 years ago after serving 11 years in the Army, where I was a logistician. I started my career in the firm doing operations requirements analysis and eventually built a team and a business in advanced analytics and data science. About eight years ago, while leading Booz Allen’s infrastructure business for the Navy and the Marine Corps, I developed a focused interest on our need as a firm to developed advanced capabilities in the area of industrial control systems cybersecurity.

For the last six or seven years, I’ve been an integrated leader for defense, civil, and commercial. I focus on three areas: I’m innovating and validating our solutions as a firm. What do we provide to our clients? I also pursue business, leading and helping with proposals to win work. Third, I’m building a talented cadre of people who do the same thing — finding and hiring people out of school and people from different government agencies. It’s building staff who want to learn. We really need people who are not just educated, but passionate about doing this.

As vice chair for the Board of Fellows for the School of Cybersecurity, Data Science and Computing, I’m also trying to help Norwich stay connected to what’s happening out here in the wild in the supply chain, defense, civil, government, this whole thing. My key insights? Number one, quality technical education, technical training, and technical certifications matter. Our ability to provide the highest-quality realistic technical training and certification experiences to our cadets and students at Norwich, that’s how you make sure you’re successful in the field. That’s what employers are looking for.

Number two is that there are many different back¬grounds that lead toward a career in cybersecurity. Engineers, social scientists, in some cases medical—different kinds of backgrounds can point you toward this field. You shouldn’t feel like, “Well, I have to be a computer science major or I’ll never do cybersecurity.” Not necessarily. Most of our clients are not cybersecurity experts. They do need us to help them, but I would say there is a cross-section of skill sets and experiences and interests that are needed in the cybersecurity space.

The third thing is we need to instill in Norwich that a big differentiator for us is that operational-test¬ed experience that we get on the Hill, whether you’re wearing a uniform or you’re a civilian student. Intern¬ships, testing, that rigorous life on the Hill makes a big difference in how you perform and how you’re received in whatever organization you go to. I’m a big believer in that. Leadership matters. Work ethic matters. Dealing with tough times matters. Those intangible skills and training that you get beyond the classroom at Norwich are very valuable in the outside world.

Norwich is producing these majors that are in high demand not only from a technical perspective, but also with the leadership skills that Norwich brings. That, I think, enables a Norwich alum to take on stress a little bit faster, to organize, to meet high demands, to go to a Booz Allen or Deloitte with a pretty intense environment and excel, because they can handle Day One challenges and stress.

We have an opportunity here to stretch ourselves as an institution. I’m blown away with what we’ve accomplished so far. But how do we to push ourselves further? To be more relevant and really become a leader? There are going to be unbelievably challenging cybersecurity threats, and the pace will not stop. How do we make sure we’re central to that work?

—As told to Sean Markey

David Forbes ’93 holds a master’s degree in public policy with a concentration in science and technology from George Mason University. Before joining Booz Allen Hamilton, he served for 11 years as an Army officer and later worked as a strategic planner in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

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