On April 19, we hosted Barbara McNamara, former Deputy Director of the National Security Agency, for our Ask the Expert series. Ms. McNamara captivated us not only with her deep knowledge of the information security industry, but also by her life story and the doors she has opened for other women in technology.
A graduate from Regis College, the Armed Forces Staff College, and the National War College, Barbara McNamara was the first woman named Deputy Director of Operations of the National Security Agency in 1994. In 1997, she became the agency’s Deputy Director and was just the second woman to hold that position. Three years later, she received the U.S. Intelligence Community’s highest award, the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal. At the time, she was one of the highest-ranked women in the U.S. intelligence community.
“People have been protecting their communications since the War of Independence”
Following an introduction by Michael Corn, the chair of the MS in Information Security Leadership program at GPS, Ms. McNamara discussed the history of information security in the United States. She talked about the critical role information security played during the World Wars, particularly focusing on advances in cryptography and code-breaking that occurred during World War II. She then covered the NSA’s role in protecting national security during the decades that followed — this period was characterized by a struggle to get information security equipment to field-based members of the military. While Ms. McNamara constantly stressed the importance of defending and protecting information as technology continuously evolves, another running theme from her conversation and concluding Q&A session is that those with a background in information security industry are “very wanted” and valued by many industries within the workforce.
“People in information assurance are about to enter the most exciting and challenging times of their lives.”
Our Ask the Expert event ended with a Q&A that addressed questions ranging from the measures current high-level security agents take while traveling abroad to U.S. preparedness for a cyberwar to Ms. McNamara’s career advancement in a male-dominated field. Ms. McNamara quipped that despite no plans to write a book, the title of her memoir would be “In a Man’s World.”
It was a pleasure to host Ms. McNamara at GPS and we look forward to our next Ask the Expert event.