Alumni Spotlight: Rick McElroy

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Photo of Rick McElroyRick McElroy, 1998 Alumnus

Rick McElroy is a Security Strategist with Carbon Black, Inc., an organization that delivers the industry’s most complete next generation endpoint security platform. McElroy graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Information Systems. Prior to Carbon Black, McElroy spent four years in the U.S. Marines Corps.

What is your role at Carbon Black?

I am a security strategist and an evangelist for Carbon Black. I work with customers of all sizes to help achieve their Information Security strategy. I get the privilege of flying all over the world to help educate cybersecurity professionals on advanced attack methods and how Carbon Black can help solve their end point security challenges. I also develop internal employee education courses and manage the Carbon Black research partner program. In addition, I regularly speak about cybersecurity issues at tech conferences around the country.

How did Coleman University prepare you for a career in cybersecurity?

Coleman provided a deep foundation covering topics like networking, storage and endpoints. I chose Coleman because it offered hands-on classes that explained how all of these things worked together in real world situations. I was able to complete my degree and immediately get into workforce. Today, Coleman’s cybersecurity program offers a capstone course where students can role play as hackers or defenders and allows students to apply what they learned in class to both scenarios. I’m not aware of any other San Diego area universities that provide this type of learning environment.  I’m also impressed with the new cybersecurity club called “Team Antikythera” and have spoken to this team of Coleman cybersecurity students who are building a room for competitions related to red vs. blue team penetration testing.

How did your military career prepare you for a career in cybersecurity?
In the military, you need to be able to improvise and figure how to work things out with the tools you have available. Adapting to constant change as well as the ability to be fast and agile are critical job skills to have in cybersecurity. It’s an ever changing world and being able to adapt to things outside of your control is critical to success in this field.

What alumni activities are you involved in at Coleman?
I enjoy visiting the classroom and speaking with cybersecurity students. We talk about changes in the industry and career opportunities after graduation. I occasionally provide input on curriculum and was chosen as the keynote speaker for the Fall 2016 graduation.

Are tech certifications important?
Yes. The certifications available differ, depending on the path you take in you’re career. Employers don’t have time to vet everyone, so being able to demonstrate you have successfully passed a certification test is important. Certifications are not the end all be all to being a successful security professional but they are necessary to show the competence behind the classroom.

What is your involvement with the San Diego tech community?
Since 2012, I have been the program chair for Securing Our eCity’s annual security event, CyberFest. As the program chair, I plan the conference program, select the speakers and assist in marketing the event to the public. Every year, business leaders are becoming more interested in the state of cybersecurity and our attendance has increased.

Why don’t more students decide to pursue a technology degree?
I think students often believe that tech classes are too hard and they won’t be successful. But, there are many tech jobs available that are not necessarily related to cybersecurity. The industry also needs database experts, coders, and systems administrators.

What career advice would you give to students currently enrolled in technology programs?

We definitely need more cyber defenders. There are 1.6 million jobs out there that have gone unfilled. The great thing about having a cybersecurity degree is that you can have fun and make a good living, and the security industry provides endless opportunities to learn something new, and that is one of the aspects I like most about this industry. In a nutshell cultivate cybersecurity skills and you will have a much easier time staying employed.

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