Each workday, I get up at 4 a.m. to make the drive from Gettysburg, Pa., to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md., or to an event or meeting in the D.C. area. I have been making the commute for more than 20 years.
People often ask me why I make that drive each day. My response has always been the same: I love my job. This was true when I was a junior researcher contributing to projects and is true today as I help lead the strategic direction of NIST's growing program in cybersecurity.
Growing up in a modest household with parents who worked hard to support my sister and I, it never occurred to me that I would have the opportunity to work at a place like NIST. My father taught me to solve problems in a practical way and my mother always encouraged me to work hard in school. My parents grew up in West Virginia and had limited employment opportunities when they moved to DC. We would visit my extended family often and while we did not have much money I did not notice because we were just like everyone else in that community.
When I first began my career at NIST in 1987, I was working on a masters degree in computer science. I did not have a background in computer security; however to the best of my knowledge, there were no courses or degrees in security.