Career Notes 10.18.20
Ep 20 | 10.18.20

Rosa Smothers: Secure the planet. [Intelligence]


Rosa Smothers: Hi, my name is Rosa Smothers, I'm a cybersecurity expert. My background is over a decade in the intelligence community, primarily with the CIA working as a cyber threat analyst and technical intelligence officer.

Rosa Smothers: Well, I always knew I wanted to be involved with computers, and I think, quite frankly, as a lifelong Star Trek nerd, you know, my my two favorite characters were Spock and Uhura, so that kind of in a funny sort of way, I think, left an impression on my young mind about the direction to take my life.

Rosa Smothers: Well, I started out in college and I was very good already with computers, and so I, I just got my two year associate's degree and started into the workforce and was making very good money because at that time there was not an abundance of cybersecurity professionals out there. So it was kind of the wild, wild west.

Rosa Smothers: And then 9/11 happened, and I wanted to go work for the government and pursue the bad guys, pursue Al-Qaeda, and I knew I needed a college degree in order to be able to apply for a position in the intelligence community. So at that point, I left the private sector, did my junior and senior year in about a year's time, and I met a recruiter from the Defense Intelligence Agency at a job fair. And he pursued me for a position at DIA and I started out there as a cyber threat analyst focusing on extremist groups, primarily Al-Qaeda.

Rosa Smothers: So I was at DIA for a couple of years, I learned the ropes of the intelligence community, that was a good start point for me. And during that process, I worked closely with my CIA colleagues and after a time in working and collaborating together, they said, you know, we'd love for you to come join us at CIA. And I said, well, I would love to join you at CIA. So that was that was pretty much it. It all took my life in a very different direction, but one that I'm grateful for, the uniqueness of the experience.

Rosa Smothers: Working at the Agency afforded me the ability to work with a level of cutting edge technology that much, if not most of the private sector is still considering or beginning to work on, things that you do see in the movies. I usually say you know think of something that's fairly realistic, but somewhat science fictionesque and I may have been involved with something like that. I was in DC for, I think 14 years total, and a lot of that was overseas and quite frankly, a lot of it was that lifestyle can be exhausting because it's a constant sense of paranoia. You have a constant awareness of our adversaries are pursuing you. So I left the area, moved closer to my family, took a couple of months off just to learn how to live like a normal human being. And I was in the Tampa area and Stu Sjouwerman discovered I was local and called upon me to join KnowBe4 to work as their Senior Vice President of Cyber Operations. So I was an offer I just couldn't refuse.

Rosa Smothers: The favorite part for me is the advocacy aspect of it. I am a big believer in what the company's mission is and it's basically secure the planet. Social engineering is the easiest way into a network. There's a business case for it, but there's also a just from a data privacy perspective for our citizens, it's also a huge issue as well.

Rosa Smothers: When I speak to students that are about to graduate from college, I always recommend to them that there are so many disciplines within technology at large and even within cybersecurity specifically. You don't know until you really talk with people and get your feet wet, so to speak, where your passion and interest lies. So I think it's important to get that feedback from people. A lot of the times it's also noting where business is going and sometimes you have to take it upon yourself to to self-train and seek what certifications are available that you can pursue individually that gives you those credentials to take the next step.