Career Notes 6.18.23
Ep 154 | 6.18.23

Lorna Mahlock: Build bridges. [Combat support]


Lorna Mahlock: Hello, my name is Major General Lorna Mahlock. I am the Deputy Director for Combat Support for the Cybersecurity Director at the National Security Agency.

Lorna Mahlock: So I was born and raised in the Caribbean, and I recall when I was a kid, I wanted to be a nurse. So I grew up, in a third world country and, uh, went to a all girl high school with Francisco nuns and there was just a, you know, give back and caretaking that the, those nuns did that just made me think I really wanted to be a nurse when I grew up.

Lorna Mahlock: My mom, uh, uh, came to the United States and then brought, uh, all of us as children with her. So we came here as teenagers and, um, we had two options. She said, you either go to college. Or get a job, right? So I had graduated high school pretty early at, uh, at age 16 and, and those were my options. I thought I'd outsmarted my mom when I, you know, chose high adventure in the Marine Corps as a field radio operator. So I, I think that was when I started this technology journey. So joining the Marine Corps as a field radio operator, in the old days where we had, you know, field phones and slash wires and we would, you know, uh, call up, uh, somebody at three miles at the end of that wire. You, this is me over, you know, old school technology. But, uh, that's, that's, uh, how I got my start

Lorna Mahlock: As I think about my career, it really is about an ordinary person and able to do something extraordinary because I was a part of a team, right? Um, I was born into a team, which included my family, my mom, who's a really, really strong proponent of education and then I, you know, I, I found, this organization, which is the United States Marine Corps, which is a part of an, an incredible organization. So I started out as a field radio operator, I wasn't a citizen and so, uh, because of that I had to get a different, uh, occupational specialty. Um, and then I moved, uh, into working at the Pentagon for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff as a young enlisted person. Back then, uh, we had really, really good leadership and somebody said, Hey, look, we think you can do something different, right? Um, and they enabled me to start going to school at the University of Maryland, uh, taking night classes, and then moved on from there. 

Lorna Mahlock: So I joined the Marine Corps, uh, commissioned as an officer and then became an air traffic controller. And the air traffic control field, is just simply phenomenal, a lot of technical folks. Um, I got an FAA certification as an air traffic tower controller and then, you know, just moved into the tech leadership space, uh, over a career where you have, air defense, air command and control, aviation c2, uh, which is, command and control, which is really what I did over, over a career and then had the really great opportunity to work in the Commandants office of Legislative Affairs in the Pentagon, in, uh, the Marine Corps ops field, uh, doing, um, you know, doing, uh, deploying, uh, responsible for operations and deploying Marines globally and then, uh, was selected to be a general officer and, uh, worked as the Marine Corps Chief Information Officer, and Director of Command Control communications and computers. During that time, I also had a stint, where I was able to get a degree in higher education and really focused on instructional technologies at the time.

Lorna Mahlock: At the agency, I get to work with folks that their remit is every day, is making sure that we protect our nation's national security systems from the adversary, whether they be nation state or malicious cyber actors. But also, working with, uh, folks to be able to, uh, impose, you know, really, really smart people to think about how we equip our national leadership to be able to use the si um, uh, apertures that we have to be able to provide a national advantage to protect, uh, our nation's citizenry. So really every day that is really what we are about, making sure that we protect, uh, our democracy and our people.

Lorna Mahlock: It really, really is important to be able to, to see yourselves and see, understand how other people see yourselves, see you. I will tell you that, um, I tell people that every day, I'm asking for their help to enable me to get better, right? I'm probably the most imperfect person you're gonna find, but every day I show up and, uh, with the team, it's really, it really is about working to get better, right? It's about, you know, given the opportunity that I have, how do I enable others to realize their full potential? Right. So right now it's, it's not about me, it's really about how do I create opportunities? And one of the things that I like to talk about, it's ladders, right? How do you create ladders? Both, and, and people think about ladders. People think about ladders as a, you know, a vertical component. I think about ladders in terms of horizontal component in e in, in that you can create bridges, right? And, um, ways over obstacles, uh, for, for not only, uh, for yourself, but for others and an entire organization.

Lorna Mahlock: I think we all have an opportunity, right? I think every one of us, including myself, uh, can be ordinary and still do the extraordinary when you're a part of a team, right? In the cybersecurity space, one of the things that I think is so important is that we inculcate this new generation of folks that are coming behind us to understand, um, the opportunities, uh, but the work that must be done with the, the technologies, we've gotta pop the hood open and understand not how we, um, not just be consumers of the technologies, but how we educate our young men and women to persist in this environment because there's a ton of opportunity to be able to do good, but there are also others and so we want to be on the side of the folks that understand the technology enough to be ready when the nation is least ready and that's the charge for young folks to be able to not just be consumers, but also be intellectually curious and to be able to help us to preserve and protect this great democracy because there's very few like it.