Student Profile: Intelligence Studies Student to Cyber Threat Professional
Interview with AMU Alumnus, Eric Sifford
The following profile is the third in a series of student profiles of our students and alumni at the university.
Job title: Vice President, Information Security Engineering, Bank of America
Degree earned: B.A., Intelligence Studies, 2013, American Military University
What have you been up to since earning your degree at AMU?
Since earning my degree with AMU in 2013, I PCSed to Fort Gordon, Georgia, where I was assigned as a Counterintelligence Cyber Collection Technician. I was deployed back to the Middle East in late 2014 in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, and I obtained two additional certifications: Information Systems Security Engineering Professional (ISSEP) and Professional Certified Investigator (PCI). In August 2015, I began the transition to leave for retirement from the Army, and in September 2015, I began working for Bank of America as an Information Security Engineering Specialist at their Corporate Headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina.
What led you to choose a bachelor’s in intelligence? Was it based on passion or a specific career goal?
I chose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in intelligence from AMU because furthering my development and professional standing as an Intelligence Officer was extremely important to me. I went with AMU because they’re well-respected as an academic leader in the intelligence field.
Tell us about your new role.
In my current role with Bank of America, my primary responsibility is coordination of Cyber Threat Exercises for different organizations within the bank.
Is there anything you use from your degree at AMU that you use in your current career?
The study and practical application of structured analytic techniques during my studies at AMU significantly enhanced my ability to think and to innovate in a systematic manner. This ability has already served me exceedingly well even during my short time in my new career.
Is there a particular class or professor that stood out?
My INTL498 class (Senior Seminar in Intelligence Studies), as taught by Professor Larry Dietz, definitely stood out to me during my attendance at AMU. Professor Dietz was a very demanding instructor, and I had to perform at my highest level in his class — excuses weren’t allowed. I think having Professor Dietz for my capstone course in intelligence studies was a fitting confidence boost and conclusion for my studies at AMU.
What’s the biggest cyber security threat facing the U.S. currently? What measures are being put into place to combat it?
The biggest cyber security threat facing the U.S. today is the hybrid cyber threat posed by the collaboration of nation-state actors and international organized crime. Nation states are able to provide virtually unlimited resources, and internationally organized criminal organizations often have access to the highest levels of cyber expertise. The best countermeasure to this cyber security threat, as with any other type of threat, is rigorous, multi-disciplined intelligence collection and analysis.
How did your studies at American Military University prepare you for your success in your career?
Completing my online degree with AMU set me up incredibly well for success. The habits that enabled me to be successful at AMU are exactly the soft skills that I need to be successful in my career: initiative, creativity, self-discipline, good written communication skills, and the ability to operate independently and collaborate remotely with others.
Has education always been a priority? Has your life in the military created any road blocks?
Ever since my time in Mr. Jerry Peck’s science classes during my high school years, I have always wanted to achieve academic success. Mr. Peck inspired me to value discipline, dedication, and the relentless search for truth. Because of his influence, education became a priority for me. Although my life in the military did not facilitate my attendance at a brick-and-mortar school, it did inspire me toward self-discipline and excellence.
How are you applying your intelligence studies knowledge in your current role?
Achieving a degree in intelligence studies with AMU granted me the opportunity to train my mind in the rigors of intelligence analysis and critical thinking. Those skillsets provide a unique advantage in any endeavor, but are especially applicable in my current role.
What is a key piece of advice you would pass on to someone new to online education?
To anyone new to online education, I would tell them to approach it with the enthusiasm it deserves. It is a fantastic opportunity! Be disciplined in your classes, enjoy getting to know your instructor and your fellow students, and be extra diligent in keeping track of all your deliverables and deadlines.
What is your favorite thing about online learning?
Of the many things I enjoyed about online learning, I think my favorite was the unique feeling I got from knowing my computer had become my portal to gaining knowledge, achieving my academic dreams, and interacting with people whom I would otherwise never have been able to meet.
What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family, studying the Bible, trading on the Foreign Exchange market, browsing the Internet, and constantly learning from as many opportunities as I can.
Online education isn’t a one size fits all, but it’s a great opportunity for those looking to increase their knowledge in current areas of expertise, or to look at new avenues for growth. Our student profile series will give a face and personality to our dedicated online learners at the university. Interested in learning more about your online education options? Explore our schools and programs at AMU.