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Matt Piscitello


mattTell us about your career.

I am a research analyst and technical writing associate at a cybersecurity consulting firm in Arlington, VA. Our firm supports the Department of Homeland Security, Sandia National Labs, FedEx, and Business Roundtable (a trade association) with research and information on developments in cybersecurity technology and risk management. At the risk of going into detail overmuch, it's useful to outline what cybersecurity is:

Cybersecurity is a complex field, and a complex term. One can safely assume that it deals with things like Firewalls and fighting hackers, but the reality of it is much broader. Cybersecurity deals with managing the risks involved in doing business online; a great (albeit simplified) example is PayPal's security features that allow customers to safely make credit card payments online with the assurance that their credit card data won't be stolen. Businesses have to manage more than just their cybersecurity devices. They must also design network architectures---how information flows safely on their computer networks, cybersecurity risk management frameworks----who in the company is allowed to access certain information, and recovery programs----what to do when a security breach occurs. Note that I write "when" and not "if", because with the tools we have at hand right now, the safest approach to cybersecurity is to assume a network is already compromised, and work on removing the "threat actor" (or hacker). It sounds worse than it actually is, but it is as confusing as it sounds.

What do you like about your job?

Cybersecurity constantly evolves, so our company is always learning how the industry shifts with it and how we can work to support those within it. The lack of stability can be jarring at times, but I really like that I can go into work each day with the expectation that I'm going to come out of it having learned something while also contributing to a safer and more secure Internet.

How has something you learned in English at USCB helped you in your career?

As I alluded to before, cybersecurity is in a nascent stage of development. It's a young industry and it's not widely understood. Even "IT professionals" are caught with their pants down on really basic principles of security, but there's a lot to be said for how enormous the task of cybersecurity is. What I learned from USCB is that you have to forget the labels of your major and eschew any assumptions about the research you have to do, the methods you'll have to apply in order to conduct that research, and the findings you'll come up with once you're through. 

Any advice?

This is equal parts a pet peeve as well as a caution against selling yourself short. If you are interested in an English degree then the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to juggle another discipline of study beside it. English will teach you the principles of research and analysis that are crucial for the real world, especially in new or changing job industries. No matter what career you pursue after college, make certain that you learn how to approach a problem from multiple perspectives, and make certain that you can apply the findings of your research to something greater. Ask yourself, "why does this matter? What's the impact?" Insight, while useful, is not self-executing. Make certain that you can take whatever you've learned and do more with it in life.