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News | Aug. 12, 2022

Illuminating the Future of Cybersecurity: Women From Across the Nation Visit NSA for First-of-Its-Kind Event

Surrounded by the bright aura of the National Security Agency's (NSA) cutting-edge Cybersecurity Collaboration Center (CCC), women from across the Nation recently joined leaders from USCYBERCOM and NSA to learn about the Agency’s mission and shine a light on the future of cybersecurity.

The first-ever “Women Immersed in NSA Cybersecurity” event was designed to detail and demonstrate NSA’s mission to students emerging as the next generation of cyber excellence — an effort deemed critical by the Director to diversifying recruitment while strengthening the future of national defense.

“NSA’s people have been a competitive advantage for the Agency and the Nation for over 65 years,” said GEN Paul M. Nakasone, Commander, USCYBERCOM, Director, NSA/Chief, CSS. “The national security demands on signals intelligence and cybersecurity are growing increasingly complex, especially when we consider China and Russia. Our technical and professional skills must evolve to meet those demands.”

Throughout the week, more than 70 leaders from across the Agency joined the students to share their stories of why they chose NSA — more than 90% of whom are women in cybersecurity.

Students heard a talk on disrupting nation state hackers, a panel on vulnerabilities and cybersecurity advisories, a briefing on the psyche of a hacker and many more — providing the women a glimpse into NSA’s diverse mission set.

CCC Chief Morgan Adamski welcomed the students on the first day of the visit to NSA/CSS Washington (NSAW) — outlining the goals and mission of the CCC and providing a brief overview of her career.

“I wanted to work in national security ever since I was in college,” she said, noting that the attack on September 11, 2001, had a significant effect on her during her senior year in high school. “I got into this to do everything I could make sure that never happens again.”

Cybersecurity Director Rob Joyce explained that his now 33-year career also began right out of college, and he’s seen noticeable trends in the pace of cyberspace during his time with the government.

“The speed of cyber has really picked up in recent years, and we don’t expect it to be slowing anytime soon,” he said. “Working alongside government and private industry partners is critical to progressing and succeeding in this space.”

Rear Adm. Heidi K. Berg, director of Plans and Policy for USCYBERCOM, spoke to the women about cybersecurity's role in the evolution of warfare and what it's been like navigating her decades-long military career. She described how the Navy has changed from her first deployments during the Navy's initial integration of women at sea at the end of the Cold War, to opportunities leading in combat zones, and now serving at the leading edge of modern hybrid warfare.

"A career in government service has enabled me to make a difference, to do meaningful work, and to be part of writing my nation's history," she said. "As you figure out where you're going to make your mark on the world, my advice is to be your authentic self, and bloom where you're planted.
You'll be ready for the right opportunity."

During their visit, the students had the opportunity to network with women from across NSA who are also alumni from their respective schools. The alumni and students discussed gender disparity in recruitment and how NSA can better appeal to women, specifically those interested in STEM and cybersecurity.

Getting a first-hand look at how the Intelligence Community collaborates to tackle the quickly evolving cybersecurity landscape, the students visited the Integrated Cyber Center Joint Operations Center (ICC JOC) — a state-of-the-art space for USCYBERCOM and NSA to quickly collaborate on our Nation’s most-pressing cybersecurity threats and developments.

The students also had the opportunity to tour the National Security Operations Center and receive a brief overview of its critical mission. Following the tour, they sat down for a candid discussion with GEN Nakasone, where they posed questions ranging from why he chose his career path to what it’s like leading a massive agency during such a unique time in history.
To close out the eventful week, NSA Executive Director Catherine Aucella and NSA Chief of Staff Marlisa Smith spoke to the students about their career experiences and potential opportunities for the women to put their skills to work at the Agency.

Showcasing their individual interests and expertise, the students presented their research on a topic of choice to a panel of NSA’s senior leaders— presentation topics included how to improve youth cyber competitions, avoiding Chinese recruitment tactics through LinkedIn, and many more.

Following a visit from NSA Police K-9 Dora on the final day of the visit, GEN Nakasone concluded with remarks about the growing need for leadership and innovation in the field of cybersecurity.

“Hopefully this week you’ve been able to see the passion we have for the future of our Nation,” GEN Nakasone continued. “If you’re going to bet on one thing in the future, bet on cyber.” 

The students tour the state-of-the-art Integrated Cyber Center Joint Operations Center at NSAW’s East Campus.
The students tour the state-of-the-art Integrated Cyber Center Joint Operations Center at NSAW’s East Campus.
The students tour the state-of-the-art Integrated Cyber Center Joint Operations Center at NSAW’s East Campus.
Integrated Cyber Center Joint Operations Center at NSAW’s East Campus
The students tour the state-of-the-art Integrated Cyber Center Joint Operations Center at NSAW’s East Campus.
Photo By: NSA
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