We talked to recent MPS Cyber Policy and Risk Analysis graduate Jeremy Blevins about how the program complemented his experience and expanded his understanding.
Tell us about your personal and professional background.
I live in North Alabama with my wife and three children. I enlisted in the Army National Guard my junior year of high school in the Split Option program and completed Army Basic Training that summer. After I graduated high school, I completed Advanced Individual Training to become a radio repairer, which really laid the groundwork for my career path. While I was in the Guard, I worked full time during the day and attended college at night.
My first real IT job was as a computer repair technician for a small computer shop in the late 90s. After that, I worked for a little while performing depot-level repairs for a major cell phone manufacturer, and later got into systems administration. I spent several years as a security manager/ facility security officer for a defense contracting company, while also providing IT support, tests and evaluations on computer simulation platforms.
Later in my career, I became an information systems security manager and transitioned into information assurance, which has evolved into what we now refer to generally as cybersecurity. While I wasn't defending the network from adversaries externally in that role, I managed cybersecurity compliance.
I’m now a cybersecurity analyst, using the skills and knowledge I’ve gained over the years to continue supporting the defense sector. I’m not involved in the management of people, but in understanding the processes and applying all I’ve learned in a cyber context. Where I'm at in my career, I don't want to be doing down-in-the-weeds IT work anymore. Cybersecurity is interesting because it's always a new challenge, you're dealing with a lot of unknowns.
I was interested in the policy degree because I don't see a lot of cyber policy people out there in the job force. I see a lot of people that are really good hacker types, and they can be good at red teaming and penetration testing and all that, but they may not see the bigger picture of how all of these pieces play together.
What’s your educational background?
Back in the early 2000s, when I was working my way through school, I earned an Associate of Applied Science in Missile and Munitions Technology at Calhoun Community College here in North Alabama, and then a Bachelor of Business Administration from Faulkner University. I have also earned a Graduate Certificate in Project Management and a Master of Science in Management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
You have a very strong technical background. What motivated you to earn another degree?
I started looking at the job environment, and neither the bachelors or masters degrees that I had were technical. I needed something that spoke to my cyber capabilities from the education side as well. That's what got me interested in the MPS in Cyber Policy with Utica College.I try to round out my hands-on experience with traditional education and with certifications. So, before I'd started the program at Utica, I became a CISSP, which is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional. Then before I finished up the program with Utica, I earned the Certified Ethical Hacker certification as well.
Why did you choose the MPS Cyber Policy degree at Utica?
I chose Utica College because it was listed as a NSA Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity. This, to me, was validation that the curriculum would be of a certain rigor, and that when I finished the degree it would be recognized within the defense community.
When I started the program, I was thinking it was going to be geared more toward writing corporate cyber policies. As I progressed through, I learned that's not the focus. They gear it more towards nation-state type of policy and interactions within the greater picture of cyber interaction. I like this better because just writing policy is boring. One of the things that I got out of the program with Utica College was this greater understanding of the theory behind why things are done the way they are.
Who were your classmates?
A lot of my classmates weren't cyber professionals, but had diverse professional backgrounds. There were several that were lawyers, and some of them that were involved in the finance sector. It gave me exposure to things outside of the defense sector and thought processes that were a little different than what I'm used to from the environment I work in.
What were some of the most rewarding parts of the program for you?
I think the coolest thing for me with the entire experience was the depth of knowledge and hands-on experience of the professors. I was able to relate to it, and it made it more interesting to me. As far as a particular course, there was one where we applied Carl von Clausewitz's theories on war to cyber. The book was originally published in the mid 19th century, and it's still relevant because the theories are still solid. I am of the opinion that we really aren't that much smarter than our ancestors. Human nature is the same, we just have more layers of technology and experience to add to their knowledge that makes us think we are smarter. We can't discount knowledge because of its age; we have to figure out how to apply it to our situations. I think we get so caught up in the mindset of "this has never been done before" that we lose focus of universal underlying principles.
Who else do you think could benefit from this degree?
Anyone wanting to have the bigger picture understanding of how cyber plays out among different actors; it's definitely a good degree for that. If they want to know how to defend their network against someone else, this is not the degree that they need. Utica has got other cyber degree offerings for that. With this degree, you get more of a generalist perspective on how it all works together.
Some of the readings we had were NATO documents, and some of them were UN documents. You get to see all these different ideas that are written by people that aren't technical for the most part, the interplay between nations, and the idea that cyber is a new domain of warfare and espionage and how all that works together.
The program would also be really great for someone who is looking to move to Washington, DC and be involved at the national level with guiding cyber policy. I think that's a great thing. I'm happy in Huntsville, Alabama, which is a really big defense community.
I can take the skills that I learned and apply those in any corporation that's here locally, and we've also got a really big presence of global companies here.
Learn more about the online MPS in Cyber Policy and Risk Analysis program at Utica College and find out if it’s right for you and your career goals. Complete the form or call us at 315.732.2640–or toll free at 866.295.3106.