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I am a cyber guy by trade, and in my 19 years at Booz Allen, I’ve plied my trade in just about every market and industry in which the firm operates. I’m a former Naval flight officer, flew missions over Antarctica, am a National Security Agency-trained ethical hacker, and currently focus on the international market.
If I wasn’t an American, I’d live in New Zealand. And thinking about the future of cyber doesn’t keep me up at night—I find it exciting.
The top three jobs today weren’t in existence 10 years ago. In 10 years, my kids will be looking at fields I can’t even conceive of yet.
Chris Pierce is a member of the leadership team responsible for business with the National Security Agency, Cyber Command, and military cyber. He is a subject matter expert in information assurance and system security engineering.
He stays current by lecturing on this topic and working on a Knowledge Partnership between the Naval Academy Cyber Security Department and Booz Allen.
With expertise in threat identification, vulnerability assessment, penetration and vulnerability testing, and system security engineering, Chris has provided effective solutions in public key infrastructure, cryptographic modernization, and other information assurance environments. He is also a recognized leader in the assurance field for his experience in social engineering.
Chris serves a broad range of clients in the U.S. military, federal government, and overseas clients such as the Joint Combatant Commands, Navy, Air Force, NASA, and Forest Service.
His numerous consulting engagements include technical support to Space & Naval Warfare Systems Command Information Systems Security Office, which involved testing and evaluating field systems. He has also delivered process planning support to Information Warfare-Defend. Here, he focused clients on planning, task development, and program tracking for testing fielded systems. This particular planning and support allowed U.S. forces to receive secure and much-needed command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems.
Before Chris joined our firm in 1997, he flew a C-130 aircraft for the U.S. Navy in support of the U.S. Antarctic Program as a naval flight officer. In addition, he designed, developed, and implemented ethernet topologies for Windows NT networks at Navy commands in the U.S. and abroad.
Chris has lectured on network security and information assurance at conferences across the country. He has also served as an adjunct instructor at the University of California, San Diego for 3 years, where he taught Microsoft official curriculum as well as computer security classwork.
He earned a B.S. in oceanography from the U.S. Naval Academy and an M.S. in business organizational and systems management from the University of La Verne.
Why are you passionate about the work you do at Booz Allen? I was active duty in the Navy, but I do more good for my country now, as a Booz Allen employee, than I did when I was in uniform. I’m proud of what we do, the clients, the product, and in my area of expertise, the cybersecurity that protects the country.
What excites you about working in cybersecurity? In working with international clients, it’s exciting to engage with smart people from different cultures. Depending on the country, some might be more advanced than we are in certain aspects. In the U.S., we innovate around apps and technologies, but some other countries do a better job of taking that technology and getting it into the average person’s household.
Why is Booz Allen an ideal firm for someone with expertise and skills in cyber? You can do intelligence work, support the Department of Defense, a civil agency, or work in a commercial industry. Most companies, even big firms, don’t have opportunities for their employees to work in all different types of environments.
How do you help your clients prepare for the future? One client’s woe is the groundwork for another client’s solution. We can take something that worked for one client and repurpose it to help others. Also, Booz Allen is unique in how we look at problems: We don’t just look at a cyber problem as a cyber problem. Maybe it’s also a people problem, a data problem, or a training problem. We innovate around a multidisciplinary approach, which not many companies can do to scale the way we can.
Where do you see Booz Allen in the next 100 years? I’ll tell you a story. In the 1990s, we worked with a large, iconic toy manufacturer whose growth had peaked. The outcome of our work led to a strategy that I see on display every time I walk down the toy aisle—it was monumental for that company and is still bearing fruit. I expect to see more of that over the next 100 years, for us to be the consulting force that helps companies succeed.
What’s a pressing need in cyber? Not enough cyber talent is a big one. And when I look at universities, we are not teaching cyber in a practical and applicable way. There’s also a lack of diversity. The cyber field is male dominated. We need more women and minorities—that diversity makes us all stronger because you’re looking at issues with varied perspectives.
What makes you excited to come to work in the morning? The challenge and the people. I can always count on something being different and new. I don’t like being stagnant and during my 19 years at Booz Allen, I’ve never found that to be the case.
What are your three tips for managing and motivating your people? I try to talk to people and find out what motivates them, what’s in it for them. If you can relate to people and respect their thoughts even if you don’t agree, you can have a dialogue.
What mentorship advice would you give someone who took on a new leadership role? Talk to your people. Get out from behind the desk. We’re a people business. Period.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? My grandparents took me to the Naval Academy when I was 11 years old. We toured the campus and I said, “I want to go here.” My dad was a minister and my mom worked for church, so no one in my family had a military background. But I had a calling. I didn’t get in the first year and had to reapply, and I’ve never regretted it.
What are you nostalgic for? Going with my dad to the old pinball machine arcades. The real, old fashioned, pinball where you put in a quarter and got three games.
What motivates you? Seeing others do well.
What can we do to be happier? Turn off your phone and stop looking at emails and texts.