Kelly Sachs Thiele
My main activities include marrying a fellow Georgia Tech grad (ME 2010) in May of 2012, moving to and buying my first house in Virginia Beach in April of 2013, and having my first child (and future Yellow Jacket!) in July of 2014.
My current position is as an information security analyst for the Department of Homeland Security, working with Federal network penetration testing data and cybersecurity incident response policies. My main responsibilities include reviewing network data and security policies for potential risks in order to develop analytical reports for federal civilian customer departments and agencies, and to ensure customer awareness of and compliance with information technology security requirements.
Making an Impact
One of the best aspects of my job is the immediate and positive impact I can make in the federal cybersecurity landscape. For example, a senior leader from my department was testifying in front of Congress one day and was asked for specific information about one of our main initiatives. Because she did not have this particular information on hand and I was the analytic lead for this initiative, my supervisor contacted me directly for this data.
In ten minutes, I was able to report back not only with the needed calculations, but also with a breakdown of the analysis that could be easily communicated in the restricted format of a Congressional hearing. This quick turnaround allowed our senior leader to provide Congress with both a satisfactory response as well as ample reason for their continued support of our department's cybersecurity programs.
The most engaging and interesting project that I have participated in so far is the creation of the inaugural year-end report on three interrelated programs, built on data points ranging from the hundreds to the millions. It required frequent meetings with the technical teams and senior leadership to gather input. The results were intended for wide public release.
I was the key player in developing the report's format, creating the original graphics used to display the variety of information in a clean and concise manner and ensuring the content was accurate and flowed smoothly from section to section. Although the project took six months to complete, it laid the ground work for all subsequent year-end reports with the end product receiving several accolades from within and without the Department.
Fostering a Flexible, Interdisciplinary Approach
The development of strong analytical, communication, and complex problem-solving skills and the fostering of a passion for science and technology are the critical ways in which an Ivan Allen College education has helped me excel in my current position. Flexibility in job requirements is necessary within my office, and so without this passion and skill set I would not be able to adapt to the rapidly evolving mission space and problem sets characteristic of a cybersecurity-based program.
For example, just two months after joining DHS, my immediate supervisor left the Department for another position and passed to me the responsibility of being the lead compliance analyst for our division's Domain Name Security Extensions (DNSSEC) program.
I had absolutely no prior experience with DNSSEC, but I jumped right into learning the history of the program, finding and networking with key program partners, using and modifying the tools needed to conduct and report on the weekly compliance scans of over 100 federal departments and agencies, and implementing program and process improvements. Four months later, I was able to serve as a subject matter expert in helping a federal department achieve its DNSSEC compliance goals and received a certificate of appreciation from the department as a result.
“Many agencies and companies are just now realizing that the solutions to their traditionally technology-rooted problems cannot be solved with solely technology-based solutions, that a multidisciplinary approach is required to break them out of their cycle of failure or error.”
Although I live far from the Atlanta area, I am still professionally connected with other Tech graduates through the Georgia Tech D.C. and Hampton Roads alumni networks, the Sam Nunn alumni group, and the Georgia Tech Cyber Scholarship for Service group. My job has me frequently traveling to DC for work, so I try to participate in the D.C. alumni network's monthly Wind-Down Wednesdays when possible as well as the Sam Nunn events when hosted downtown.
I have attended the annual student send-off parties hosted by the Hampton Roads alumni network, but this coming year I will be more active in the group as I recently assumed the office of social media chair. I also maintain contact with the Georgia Tech Scholarship for Service alumni as some work in or with my office as well as attend the annual event in D.C. that welcomes new students into the program.
As I work at a computer all day, my favorite hobbies are ones that get me out of the house or flex my non-technical skills. I love to bake pastries and various desserts as well as maintain a seasonal fruit and vegetable garden. I also greatly enjoy distance running as a stress reliever and weekend activity and successfully completed my first Army Ten-Miler last fall. With a brand new baby, however, most of my free time is now spent caring for and enjoying time with my little one.
Advice for Current and Future Students
From my experience, many agencies and companies are just now realizing that the solutions to their traditionally technology-rooted problems cannot be solved with solely technology-based solutions, that a multidisciplinary approach is required to break them out of their cycle of failure or error. The skill set you build as an Ivan Allen College student that allows you to bridge the gap between the technical and non-technical, the policy maker and scientist, or the tech-savvy and the average person is extremely valuable but also a market rarity.
While greatly needed, however, this skill set is still not well understood and thereby requires you to learn how to clearly convey your uniqueness to potential employers or investors so that they know your true value. Take full advantage of the cross-listed opportunities Ivan Allen College offers with the other colleges, but remember that knowing how to market yourself after graduation is also a critical part of the experience.