Want to break into cyber?

Get career advice from three diverse employees with STEM degrees
In this three-part series, we are celebrating National Cybersecurity Awareness Month by profiling employees who are building a career in the cybersecurity field.
 
Bridgette Townsend
“Take at least one programming course, keep current on security news and events, and participate in local security related meetup groups.”
 
Bridgette Townsend
Systems Engineering Manager
BAE Systems Intelligence & Security
“I was really drawn to a career in cybersecurity after attending a number of ‘hacker’ related conferences (Summercon, HOPE, and Defcon) in the late 90s and early 2000s,” said Townsend. “Today, my interest remains because the world is much more dependent on connected technologies and there are endless opportunities, which continues to create excitement for me.”
 
Townsend earned an undergraduate degree in physics with a concentration in mathematics in 1994; she also earned a master’s degree in business administration and another master’s in cybersecurity.
 
“My prior work experience in cybersecurity definitely helped me in my career at BAE Systems,” said Townsend. “For example, working as a vulnerability security researcher with start-ups and small defense companies was instrumental and has complemented the work I to do today at BAE Systems.”
 
Townsend was initially drawn to BAE Systems when she was working with a start-up company. A BAE Systems chief scientist recruited her with a good opportunity for growth. She started with the company as a senior principle engineer in the company’s FAST LabsTM research and development organization. Her primary responsibilities included developing cyber-focused products and identifying business opportunities to transition our products into other areas of the organization.
 
“It’s possible to make the transition from a technical to management position,” she said. “My advice is to share your expectations with your management and mentors, seek feedback, identify skill gaps to develop along the trajectory path, consider new local and relocation opportunities, and through it all, remain positive.”
 
Currently, she manages a team of system engineers in support of the Department of Homeland Security. Her team makes recommendations to the customer on using the latest technologies in systems integration and assesses model-based systems engineering approaches.
 
“Some of the most challenging aspects of my current position are the number of moving and interdependent parts,” she said. “The IT systems we work on are large, complex and distributed, so effective coordination and collaboration is key to our success. We handle the challenges well by accepting the complexities and working together collectively.”
 
Townsend is involved with BAE Systems Employee Resource Groups and external STEM professional organizations (STEMforher, Women in Data Science, NSBE, INCOSE). She also is the founder of a Machine Learning group. Townsend’s advice to someone looking to get into the cyber field is to take at least one programming course, keep current on security news and events, and participate in local security related meetup groups.
 
Want more? 
Look for next week’s tips from George Velasquez, senior IT security specialist shares his perspective on gaining experience and certifications in the field.
 
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