Career Notes 8.13.23
Ep 162 | 8.13.23

Dr. Georgianna Shea: Don't wait to take the initiative. [Technologist]


Georgianna Shea: Hello, my name is Dr. Georgiana Shea. I'm the Chief Technologist at the, um, Transformative Cyber Innovation Lab at the Foundations for Defensive Democracies.

Georgianna Shea: My first thought was, and this might sound strange, but, um, I, I thought I wanted to be a mortician. But then when I got into my more advanced math classes, I then started to think about engineering and I thought, okay, I, I want to be a, an aeronautical engineer. So that's what I was thinking I wanted to do when I was in high school.

Georgianna Shea: It was never a plan to stay in as a lifer. So I did my four years in the Signal Corps. While I was in, I tried to do as much school as possible, which, um, you know, for me, I think it ended up being two classes. Because being in, in the Signal Corps, if you're not out in the field doing your job, then you're, not doing your job. So, um, I did not get a lot of school in while I was in the army, but, um, once I got out that was my goal, go to school and, uh, and, and pursue a degree

Georgianna Shea: I had gotten out of the army. I ended up going to Hawaii and then, uh, went to school there. I wanted to major in, in math because I really like math. But, um, I didn't honestly know what I would do with math, except be a math teacher and I didn't really want to be a math teacher. So, um, as I was taking all the math courses, I think all the math courses that the school had to offer, I noticed that all of the math translated to the computer science degree program. So, I actually got my, my four year degree within just less than two years because I, I kept a very full load. So I was out of the army and looking to actually start a career that, um, was going to pay me more than the minimum wage job that I had.

Georgianna Shea: I was graduating right at the time that they were standing up protection for critical infrastructure. So this was in 99 and I was in Hawaii. So in Hawaii, they stood up the Army's Regional Computer Emergency Response Team and they were looking for 10 people, brand new organization, to monitor and protect the Army networks. And my, um, fellow students had graduated, they were looking for jobs. They passed around their resume and one of my, um, fellow student colleagues had, had gotten a job there and reached out to me and said, hey, they're looking for like, you know, like 10 people, this brand new organization. And, um, I think you would be great here, so I said, great, I'll, I'll interview. So I interviewed and they hired me, which was, I guess the step into my career and where I am today.

Georgianna Shea: I was there for a couple of years and, and then I ended up transferring to the D. C. area, where I went from the regional army support to the, the army headquarters cert. So I was now taking in the reports that I used to submit, which was really interesting to me and then I get there and I realize, oh no, they're also a brand new organization and, um, they're still trying to figure it out and then I think I was here a couple of years and I honestly felt like it just, it just wasn't taking off. I ended up thinking, well, I need to get back to my, my technical roots. So I want to do something a little more technical and we were using a, a tool there, it was, um, Starlight and so to use Starlight, you've got to go through and do a lot of data manipulation, so you don't have to be as, um, analytical with numbers. So I had applied to a company that was managing this tool and I found that, that, that company, um, Battelle. So I applied there and, um, they, they brought me in and they hired me in the Crystal City location. I ended up working for Battelle and then a project manager came up to me one day and said, hey, do you know anything about IO and she asked me to come in and talk to one of her clients. So I went in and talked to one of her clients and they said, okay, you're a perfect fit, we want you to work here and then did that for a little bit until I'd say a couple years until the location became an issue.

Georgianna Shea: One of my coworkers had moved over to the joint staff and said, hey, um, come over here to the joint staff, we could use you here on some stuff. So I ended up moving over to the joint staff and supported, um, the science and technology office that supported that. So I worked there for a number of years and it was again, full spectrum IO, not just cyber operations. But now I'm in the Pentagon, so I worked there at the Pentagon for, uh, a number of years and then, then I was offered a position with MITRE, which was very exciting it was a Quantico very close to Stafford, and that was as a systems engineer focusing on ISR equipment within the Marine Corps. Working at Quantico for a couple years with, with MITRE, um, I then put in for a, a transfer to Colorado and I think it was at Quantico, maybe two years at two or three years and then I transferred to Colorado. Um, and I've been here for the past 10 years and then I was able to just transfer to another program, so it was the same, same requirements, just a different system. So then I moved over to supporting Air Force, uh, programs in, in Colorado. Then within a couple months of being here, the program I was brought over here to work on ended up getting moved to another location. I cast my net within the MITRE group and said, hey, I'm looking for another project and there was a project in the, in the DC area that picked me up, said, you would be perfect for this standing up a security operation center underneath the department of justice and I did that for about a year. After being with MITRE for about 13 years, I had decided I wanted to just see what other opportunities were out there. So I ended up leaving MITRE and, um, went to FDD about two and a half years ago and FDD is a think tank in the DC area that it actually now houses the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. So that's how I ended up at FDD and where I am now. 

Georgianna Shea: I have the privilege of working with the experts in whatever that domain is. Um, so I am, I am humbly aware that I am never the absolute expert. So I try to be very appreciative of people's time, of their knowledge, um, mostly of their time, because like I said, it's usually a coalition of the, of the willing, and I understand that everyone has a, a job that they have to do, and I try to get all that expert information and then interpret it to, um, folks that are not experts.

Georgianna Shea: My words of wisdom are take advantage of every opportunity and don't wait for anybody. I try to mentor people and I talk to young people a lot, you know, trying to get into the field and, and I see a lot of waiting on other people. You can become an expert without, you know, in class instruction, without a 5, 000 certification, you can, you can take the initiative if you know what it is you need to study and you can find what you need to study and you can start building out your skill. So I would say one, you know, take the initiative and, you know, self educate yourself, the other big piece of advice I have is, um, definitely build a network and, you know, capture those relationships. 

Georgianna Shea: So get a LinkedIn account so you can talk to those old people. Um, you know, make the connections with people who are your, uh, both your peers, cause they're going to continue growing in their career and they're going to be a resource for you, have, have a LinkedIn account, connect with people, you're going to grow in your career and you're going to want to, you know, be able to have those resources available to you.

Georgianna Shea: I hope that the work I'm doing contributes to national security. It may not be you know, large, my, uh, my coworker Annie always says, you know, small bites out of the apple. So any, any step we can take to, to point towards the advancement of national security is, is really my goal.