As the cyber industry continues to experience exponential growth, University of Tulsa alumni who studied the field are reflecting on how their education led them to the successful careers they enjoy today.
Jim Arrowood (BS ’02) majored in computer science at TU during a time when cybersecurity was a concern only among the federal government. Corporations and public entities had little interest in digital security, but Arrowood saw value in preparing to work in an industry on the brink of a breakthrough. As an undergraduate, he participated in cyber research driven by graduate students and built close relationships with faculty. “I got to work on projects that profiled my education and learn how the real world works in cybersecurity,” he said.
After graduation, he began his career at Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group in a developmental role, using the computer science skills he gained at TU. Years later when the world began to realize the importance of protected cyber networks, Arrowood joined ONEOK, a leading midstream energy service provider, and has spent the past nine years building its cybersecurity team. In an industry that is constantly changing, his team responds to cyber threats, uncovering new solutions for the company in a secure way. “Every day you wake up with a new set of things to go work on — a new set of things to go try and solve,” Arrowood explained.
In Tulsa’s thriving economy, he said the cybersecurity industry is flourishing, both at large corporations such as ONEOK and at small startups around the city. “TU alumni have worked for me, and we’ll have TU students do internships that expose them to the industry,” he said. “It’s exciting that a lot of companies are starting to look at Tulsa as an opportunity to invest in not only security but also cyber and entrepreneurship.”
Bradley Skaggs (BS ’04) studied computer science and applied mathematics at TU where he used his university connections to secure an internship with the federal government that eventually progressed to a professional career. He has also served as a data scientist at Secureworks, an information security services provider and subsidiary of Dell. He applies data science and machine learning techniques toward solving cybersecurity issues. “I really enjoy getting difficult problems handed to me,” Skaggs said. “There’s just a huge need for people with computer security expertise who can hit the ground running when they start at an organization and help a company understand what its security needs are and what actions can be taken to improve its security footprint.”
Thanks to the computer security background he acquired at TU, Skaggs now uses those mathematics tools in his data analysis job. He said TU is a proven asset to cyber organizations that hire alumni. TU students internalize the mission of building a better society that is more secure. “They know they’re getting a person with good skills who has had some great teaching and education,” Skaggs stated. “The professors I worked with were fantastic, world-class funny people — they could joke with you one minute and then tell you important information the next — it’s a great place to learn.”
Alex Barclay also earned his undergraduate degree in computer science in 2004 and graduated with a master’s in computer security two years later. As chief information security officer at eLynx Technologies in Tulsa, he strives to reduce cyber risk among oil and gas big data analytics and protect customer data. “It’s always this game of cat and mouse — trying to keep the bad guys out and our data safe,” Barclay said.
When he arrived at TU, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to study, but he soon found an environment that encouraged him to learn and explore technology. He worked with faculty and fellow students and on research that supported entities including the NSA, the Tulsa Police Department and the Tulsa Fire Department. “We were able to bring our expertise and passion around security and computers to solve problems,” Barclay said. “Because I had the technical and managerial underpinnings from class and research, I was equipped with the academic knowledge and practical skills to change my career multiple times and do different things.”