Top U.S. companies embedding cyber-savvy Southeast grads

Updated: Feb. 18, 2018 at 9:51 PM CST
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Southeast Missouri State University cybersecurity graduates are in high demand in today’s job market and are quickly finding success among top U.S. companies dedicated to protecting customer data.

JoLynn Hallmark and Jeremy Wiedner hit the ground running after graduating from Southeast, using their skills to protect networks and data from attack.

“They reflect the culture of excellence that is embedded in the cybersecurity program here at Southeast,” said Dr. Vijay Anand, director of Southeast’s cybersecurity program and associate professor of computer science.

Hallmark, of Andover, Kansas, earned her Bachelor of Science in cybersecurity at Southeast in December 2016. She now lives in Reston, Virginia, working as a security officer at AIG. Wiedner, of Imperial, Missouri, earned his Bachelor of Science in cybersecurity in May 2014 and was a member of the first graduating class of cybersecurity majors. He now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, working as a manager for the Cyber Threat Analysis Center (CTAC) at Secureworks.

As a manager, Wiedner oversees the work of 15 frontline analysts and interacts with many of the company’s international clients to solve problems. He is involved with process improvement and driving change within the company to better serve clients.

Wiedner also serves as the primary recruiting manager for the CTAC, which gives him the opportunity to see the quality of employees that cybersecurity programs are producing.

“I have looked at hundreds of resumes and interviewed dozens of students from cybersecurity programs all over the country,” he said. “Since I know the value of the cybersecurity program at Southeast compared to that of other schools, I have already hired three other graduates from the program and will continue to hire more. Southeast is among the best programs out there.”

Wiedner is not alone in his thinking since many Southeast cybersecurity alumni often return to help employers recruit graduates from the program. Anand says Southeast has become a preferred University among top companies and corporations for recruiting employees in cybersecurity and cyber defense.

“These types of companies always recruit from Ivy League universities, but they are also coming to Southeast. Our students are that good,” Anand said.

During Wiedner’s job search, many of his interviews resulted in the networking Anand did to draw attention to the new program’s students. Wiedner said he landed his position at Secureworks thanks to his involvement with Southeast’s Cyber Defense Club.

“Secureworks had a large presence at the Midwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, where our Cyber Defense Club was competing, and there was a career fair,” Wiedner explained. “I was recruited into Secureworks from competing.”

Hallmark said she secured her position after serving as a summer intern at AIG. Now, she monitors security devices and investigates alerts to see if true security incidents have occurred. She is also responsible for investigating phishing emails that are sent to employees and ensuring the proper measures are taken to lower the risk. She also worked on a side project that required design and development of workflows that the analysts use every day in a new ticketing system.

“That was a big moment, designing a whole new workflow,” Hallmark said. “That made the process more automatic and efficient.”

The constant learning and challenges are what makes Hallmark’s and Wiedner’s careers in cybersecurity so appealing to them.

“I wanted a job that combined my passions and skills. It’s exciting to learn how modern technologies work and how to make them secure,” Hallmark said. “It’s fun and challenging, and I work with some great people who make coming to work every day enjoyable.”

Wiedner added, “We (Secureworks) are number one at what we do. We get to not only see where the cybersecurity industry is going but also get to help drive it as well.”

He hopes one day to become a leader in the cybersecurity industry.

“Starting as a Secureworks analyst was the best way to get there,” he said. “I received two promotions within two and a half years, and now I manage analysts for the top managed security services provider in the world.”

Both alumni credit Southeast with giving them the knowledge and skills necessary for success in their field. Both have also served as leaders of the University’s Cyber Defense Club, which has won five straight state championships and has regularly advanced to regional competitions.

“I was able to start the Cyber Defense Club, and through this opportunity, I was able to further my organizational and leadership skills,” Wiedner said. “I sought opportunities to promote the cybersecurity program, and those helped increase and grow my ability to interact with clients.”

Hallmark, who was the only female member and captain of Southeast’s 2016 Cyber Defense Team, also credits the variety of clubs offered at Southeast for her college achievements.

“The friends I made through Ignite student ministry helped me find success away from my job by learning what the most important parts of life are,” she said.

Hallmark advises Southeast students to get involved and set high goals.

“Live in the moment, but don’t forget why you’re there.  Know your top three priorities in life and make sure your schedule aligns with those priorities,” she said.

Wiedner encourages students to be passionate and willing to put in time learning and seeking knowledge outside of the course curriculum.

“The industry needs inquisitive individuals with strong attention to detail that are willing to learn and explore on their own,” he said.

Hallmark and Wiedner are continuing to develop goals within cybersecurity. Wiedner has recently obtained Reverse Engineering Malware certification in preparation for a possible move to the Counter Threat Unit at Secureworks. Hallmark would like to become an incident responder or a security architect.

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