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digital security

Computer science alumni thrive in cyber industry 

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.

computer science alumniJim 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.”

computer science alumniBradley 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.”

computer science alumniAlex 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.”

True Cybersecurity: TU hosts Tulsa Cyber Summit, wins CCDC regional 

Students, executives and innovators convened in Tulsa March 24-26 for a weekend of events centered on competition and exploration in the field of cybersecurity. The True Blue University of Tulsa community was instrumental in hosting the Southwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC), followed by the first-ever Tulsa Cyber Summit, a national cybersecurity conference for students, executives, entrepreneurs and innovators.

2019 Southwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition

CCDC team
TU’s 2019 CCDC team

TU’s CCDC team won first place at the southwest regional event, hosted on the TU campus, and will advance to the national competition April 23-25 in Orlando, Florida. CCDC gives college students the opportunity to apply real-world technical and business skills before graduating. Simulated situations prepare students for real scenarios they will encounter later in their careers as each team is responsible for securing, managing and maintaining the network infrastructure of a fabricated small business.

TU’s 2019 CCDC team members include Team Captain Kyle Cook (computer science), Michaela Conn and Brian Kwiecinski (computer information systems), Abraham Habib (information technology) and Tabor Kvasnicka, Hannah Robbins, Rachel Porter and Meaghan Longenberger (computer science). Sal Aurigemma, Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems, is the team’s coach.

Tulsa Cyber Summit

During the same weekend, TU, the George Kaiser Family Foundation and Cox Business teamed up to welcome cybersecurity specialists and innovators from around the country to the Tulsa Cyber Summit. The conference featured high-profile keynotes including former CIA Director John Brennan, Facebook Security Director Aanchal Gupta, Team8 Founder and CEO Nadav Zafrir and more than 40 other leaders and executives in the cybersecurity industry.

Hosted at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Tulsa, the event included breakout sessions centered around leadership and technology in the cyber sector as well as trends and challenges in the areas of transportation, energy, electricity, finance and IoT governance.

Former CIA Director John Brennan

“The University of Tulsa has been a leader in cybersecurity for more than two decades,” said Tyler Moore, Tandy Associate Professor of Cyber Security & Information Assurance. “Until now, we’ve been somewhat of a best-kept secret. Many of the students and alumni we’ve trained have gone on to the highest levels of government service, academia and industry. There’s a tremendous opportunity to leverage the expertise and talent that we have at the university in building a future economy that is diversified and that can make a significant difference to our nation’s security.”

Facebook Security Director Anchal Gupta

Cybersecurity in Tulsa

TU’s partnership with GKFF and Cox Business elevated Tulsa’s national exposure as a center of cybersecurity education, entrepreneurship and innovation. The Tulsa Cyber Summit enhances the city’s growing community of energy, manufacturing, technology and aerospace industries.

TU’s Tandy School of Computer Science holds three cyber designations by the National Security Agency and produces many of the nation’s top experts in cyber operations, cyber defense and research while preparing students to fill critical roles at organizations such as the U.S. Department of Defense, NSA, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Transportation and National Institute of Justice. The university also offers several computer science and cybersecurity degree options, including an exclusive online master’s program for professionals.

“Tulsa is putting its name on the map and has for many years as far as being a center of excellence on cybersecurity and IT matters,” Brennan said. “I believe that academic environment is so important because the next generation of Americans, the students at The University of Tulsa, are the ones that need to pick up this mantel and address the challenges that we face as a nation.”

Thousands of cybersecurity jobs that require the skills of a qualified cyber professional remain unfilled across the United States, and the U.S. military’s cyber defense capabilities indicate areas of weakness in protecting the country from potential adversaries. As the backdrop for the new Tulsa Enterprise for Cyber Innovation, Talent and Entrepreneurship Cyber District, the city of Tulsa is primed to prepare the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

Stay up-to-date with our True Blue stories or read the Tulsa World’s coverage of the Tulsa Cyber Summit.