People working at night in a computer watch floor.

An Econ major’s approach to, and experience thriving in, the world’s most elite cyber unit.  Identify, win trust, and lead the highly-technical workforce without being technical.   Introducing Meaghan Murray and her passion for the human dimension of cyber warfare.

Preparing for Life in Cyber Warfare

I graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2008 with a Bachelors of Science in Economics.  I went there for a challenge far greater than what a traditional college experience could offer.  It allowed me to do unusual things, unavailable to a normal college student, but excluded anything related to the cyber warfare arena.  Like most people at the Academy I had a killer high school GPA, varsity sports and Ivy League-competitive SAT score. Despite that, the Academy presented the first real academic challenge I had ever experienced, and it was crushing.  It expects you to perform under exceptionally hard circumstances with almost no resources to do so.  At the time, it feels vicious and exhausting, but 10 years later, I look back on it as the most preparatory experience for life you could ever prescribe.

Elite Cyber – the Human Dimension

Today, I work in the government’s most elite cyber unit, blessed with the best technology, opportunity, and strategic positioning imaginable.  More important than all three of those combined, however, is working with the world’s most elite hackers and analysts all under one roof, making magic happen through the results of their combined intellects solving our Nation’s hardest intelligence problems.  To walk amongst them is truly daunting, but a leader recognizes that proximity to magic is illusory, and far from the point in aligning all of us together.

Why am I able to work in this field? I am passionate about cyber warfare — specifically the human dimension.  Our mission could fail for many reasons, but one of the only missions we can properly manage is the people.  I learned from day one that leading this special breed of warriors requires a special brand of leadership.

Cutting my Teeth

My first assignment was to the operational watch floor, where I was trained to be responsible for a 12-hour outlook on all cyber operations being conducted around the U.S.  Three watchfloors across the country reported to me, and I was the first resource for operators and analysts who hit a roadblock in their operational plans. This was the first situational training to teach me the difference between the value of technical skill and technical leadership.

“I am passionate about cyber warfare — specifically the human dimension.”

We stood 12 hour shifts, during the day alternating with the night.  I took the time to deep dive the trade of our Nation’s elite operators and analysts, benefiting from their generous instruction (and occasionally their boredom during dull periods of operations), while studying government policy enabling or inhibiting their activities.  I laughed with them in their miraculous successes, and cringed with them during their challenges and failures. Despite our differences, we lived these experiences together, and I am a far better officer for their time investment.

I spent 18 months toiling with these national treasures on the watchfloor, then rotated out to a leadership position overseeing initial access operations and, later still, where I am currently serving, a readiness and certification shop, an office responsible for development and standardization of training and certification pipelines for our most precious cyber workroles.

The Fire is Lit

Over the next series of articles, I will detail my observations from working amongst our Nation’s best.  Some good, some bad— but all rounding out a population worth defending and protecting.

Be on the lookout for more thoughts, observations, and advancements in the human dimension of cyber warfare from Meghan Murray here at CyberDominance.com.

Meaghan Murray is a contributor to CyberDominance.com. She specializes in disruptive leadership to fix struggling or broken organizations, specifically in the field of cyber operations and maximization of human capital. She has a background in economics and business, with interests in cyber warfare, mentorship, politics, and golf.

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