Employee Spotlight: Will Shah
Tell us a little bit about your path to cybersecurity. How and why did you get into cybersecurity?
When I joined Easy Dynamics in 2016, I had no idea it would lead me to a career in cybersecurity! When I joined, the company’s core competencies had historically been information sharing and SharePoint. However, in the late 2010s, Easy Dynamics leadership recognized the growing importance of cybersecurity to our nation’s infrastructure and made concerted efforts to hire and train talent in areas such as digital identity, cloud delivery, and security engineering. I started off supporting clients at the Department of Homeland Security and Early Warning Services. I now lead our contract at the General Services Administration (GSA) and serve as a Program Manager for our client.
What are your core responsibilities as a program manager?
My main responsibility as a program manager is to successfully deliver cybersecurity projects to our clients on-time, in scope, and within budget. I manage a highly-technical team of developers, subject matter experts, and project management staff.
My team builds solutions and creates Authority to Operate (ATO) packages, leveraging knowledge in cybersecurity, identity management, privacy-first development, DevSecOps, security engineering, and security automation along the way. Additionally, as the account lead for our contract, I am responsible for maintaining strong relationships with our customers and for forging new ones with key personnel at GSA.
Out of the things that you did to prepare for this job, what prepared you the most for success?
Along with support from the company, one of the things that has prepared me most for success as a program manager is the part-time MBA program at the University of Maryland. I’ve been enrolled in this program since 2018 and have taken classes such as strategic leadership, finance, accounting, data analytics, machine learning, and more. The formal and hands-on experience I’ve gained from this program has been invaluable in preparing me for the challenges I’ve faced as a manager and leader.
How has Easy Dynamics challenged you to grow?
Working at a small company offers many opportunities for growth. I’m constantly learning at Easy Dynamics. Over the last 5+ years, I’ve grown from a developer to a technical project manager and now to a program manager. During that timeframe, I’ve also picked up domain knowledge in the cybersecurity, identity, cloud, and security engineering fields!
What do you enjoy most about your job in cybersecurity?
I love solving complex problems that affect everyday Americans.
For example, over the last 1.5 years, I’ve been looking into the surge in government benefits fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic and how fraudsters have made away with tens of billions of dollars in fraudulent payments. The scope of these problems is enormous, and I believe that the work we do in cybersecurity can solve many challenges that the country is facing.
If you’re interested in reading about how GSA can help reduce government benefits fraud, expand equitable access to government services, and support state and local governments with cybersecurity challenges, my blog here may be worth a read!
What skills and qualities should entry-level cybersecurity professionals possess that will make them effective on the job?
In my opinion, the #1 skill that entry-level cybersecurity professionals must have is a hunger to learn.
The cybersecurity industry is ever-changing due to threats from malicious actors and constantly shifting guidelines and requirements (see our blog on the recent Executive Order on cybersecurity). Combined with the fact that new cybersecurity problems (and solutions!) emerge every year, professionals in cybersecurity often need to remain inquisitive and have a strong desire to learn.
If you have this skill, you’ll be able to thrive in the industry, regardless of the level of experience you have.
What advice would you give to recent graduates that you wish you had known?
The biggest piece of advice I can offer is something I learned during my MBA program – plan your career three years at a time, instead of 5-10 years. Young professionals and recent graduates are often asked what their goals are 5 or 10 years down the road.
However, the issue with this question is that it treats people like static beings. In reality, our interests change, and we may decide to try something new in a few years. Focusing on the short-term allows us to take concrete steps towards reaching our goals while still affording us long-term flexibility.
Share a fun fact about yourself.
While I’ve lived in the DMV area for 12+ years, I was actually born in India and grew up in both India and England. Because of my multi-cultural background, I love to travel and look forward to traveling more once the pandemic is over!