WASHINGTON — Cyber threats have become such a growing concern that U.S. Cyber Command was recently elevated to a unified combatant command. The work force that combats these threats is growing, too, and while you might think your career choice doesn’t fit into that world, you might be mistaken.
Missouri Army National Guard 1st Lt. Kristi Cook is a cyber threat intelligence officer, but that’s not a career she initially considered. She’s a historian by trade, having gotten her master’s degree in 2012. She got her commission then, too, and that’s when her commander threw a career curveball at her.
“Lt. Col. [William J.] Banwell asked if I’d be interested in trying cyber,” Cook remembered. “I told him, ‘Sir, I don’t know if I’m the kind of person you want touching computers. I don’t do a whole lot of that.'”
But she said her history studies actually related to the cyber world, and she began to like the job because it’s innovative, flexible and cutting-edge.
“I’m actually tracking our threats. What’s going on in the news and politics today has everything to do with what cyber operations are actually taking place,” she said. “I’m telling the team what’s going on so we know what to be on the lookout for as we’re conducting our cyber operations from day to day.”
Cook was planning to go back to school to get her doctorate in history, but she chose a different direction because of her National Guard job.
“I realized how much I really loved being here and what I was doing,” she said of choosing to pull out of the doctoral program. “I went straight into working for a managed security services company, where I did threat detection for them. From there, I went to a couple more jobs where I got more technical, and that’s how I ended up where I am now, doing cyber threat intelligence.”
Nowadays, she gets cyber training from both jobs.
“I think that really benefits me in my civilian career, as well as the team as a whole here,” she said.
More women are coming into the field, too — something she welcomes.
“If you’re interested in it, definitely talk to someone. Reach out,” Cook said. “If you have the passion and drive for it, we definitely think that’s the type of person that needs to be here.”