Leidos accelerates cybersecurity
The term “accelerate” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “to move faster; to gain speed.” Acceleration implies an object, a project, or even an idea that was already moving at some pace, picks up even more forward momentum through focused effort and energy. Leidos has borrowed this word and applied it to a small number of our most critical and fast-moving business segments, including artificial intelligence (AI) and, most recently, cybersecurity. In June of 2021, Meghan Good, VP and Technical Fellow, was tapped to lead the critical new internal group of cyber experts we call the Leidos Cyber Accelerator. With nearly 20 years of experience in various cybersecurity and intelligence positions, Meghan has already shown energetic leadership and enthusiastic technical expertise leading this group to several significant wins in the competitive landscape.
But what is an accelerator anyway? We sat down with Meghan to ask questions like this one and get her perspective on her new role. Meghan explained, “An accelerator, and in this case, the Cyber Accelerator represents a focal point of technology development where we look at customer challenges across the company and pull from many different sources looking for rapid ways to solve these problems.” The concept of accelerators, in general, is not unique to Leidos. In fact, similar concepts can be found in startups and tech companies all over the world. The difference is that as a diversified, major technical contractor Leidos has access to brainpower that simply may not be available to businesses of a smaller size who are still looking for steady revenue streams. “Whether it’s research from the academic world, external partners, input directly from customers at the highest levels of government, or our own research and development, Leidos’ Cyber Accelerator pulls from these centers of knowledge and is able to scale new solutions at a pace that is really impressive,” she added.
While technical expertise and deep knowledge of the cyber world is crucial to operate a successful accelerator, developing a keen eye for multidisciplinary talent may be equally as important. The Leidos Cyber Accelerator is staffed differently than other parts of the company. Rather than building teams around one or two central subject matter experts in a given line of business, the Cyber Accelerator seeks to pull from all talent pools, creating a diverse team that is motivated to challenge conventional thinking. In addition to prioritizing innovation and ingenuity, getting solutions to customers fast has to be front of mind in an accelerator environment. Meghan said about the need for a multidisciplinary team, “It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the job. I get to think creatively and look for people with different experiences. If they’re energetic, talented, and ready to take on serious challenges, I can find a home for them here.”
As the name implies, speed and focus are essential themes for a business unit like the Cyber Accelerator. But what more specific goals are the Cyber Accelerator looking to accomplish? It’s clear that cyber challenges are here to stay, and bad actors are becoming more sophisticated and brazen than ever before. What is the Cyber Accelerator working on now to address the threat? “Without getting into specifics, a lot of what we’re working on lately has to do with advanced analytics and finding new ways to counter advanced threats. We’re really looking hard at the intersection of cyber operations and machine learning, or other forms of AI (artificial intelligence). We’re also very focused on what it’s going to take to bring a Zero Trust philosophy into the real world in terms of implementation,” Meghan said. With these goals in mind, Leidos stands out as a clear leader as some of these technology areas like AI/ML and Zero Trust are already fully staffed Leidos operations being researched and worked on by Meghan’s colleagues. In fact, AI/ML is the focus of another Leidos Accelerator led by a peer Leidos Technical Fellow of Meghan’s, Ron Keesing. Check out our recent podcast, Can AI be trusted?, that features Ron. Did we mention that Meghan is also the co-host of the MindSET podcast?
Anyone who pays attention to the news can see that the need for enhanced cyber protection is real. And to closer observers, it’s clear that the tradecraft cyber attackers employ is getting more complex and more sophisticated all the time. That’s all to say that the demand for state-of-the-art cyber technology efforts like the ones the Leidos Cyber Accelerator develops exists in spades. Put more simply; the need is there for Meghan’s team’s work. But it’s one thing to know that you’re needed. It’s another thing to feel passionate and excited about the work. “My background is as a Cyber Threat Intel Analyst, so for me, I want to improve detection, to analysis, to action and making that cycle run fast enough and reliable enough that we can really make a difference.” She added, “We’ve added so much complexity to our environments that visibility and control can be challenging to maintain. Anything we can do to improve that so we’re making intelligent decisions faster is really exciting to me.”
With a pedigree as interesting as it is impressive, Meghan is truly dedicated to Leidos’ important work. In fact, Meghan has spent the entirety of her career with Leidos, having started with the company as an intern during her years as a computer science undergrad at Boston University. That kind of loyalty is certainly rare these days, especially with the high demand for cyber talent in both the public and private sectors. After completing her internship and earning both a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree from BU, she rejoined Leidos and held several roles in the cyber arena, including acting as the Cyber Solutions Lead, Solution Architect and even spent some time in a marketing role after completing her MBA at the University of Maryland. Today, in addition to being a supportive and effective manager and leading the new Cyber Accelerator, she also has her research responsibilities as a technical fellow, where she focuses on bringing data visualization models to the cybersecurity world. “One of the biggest challenges in cybersecurity is communication. We communicate very technical indicators to non-experts and expect them to make significant decisions without much context,” she said. “I think we can communicate better using graphics, but we need them in real-time. I’m working on a series of analytics that builds data-rich visualizations to provide necessary context, but not too much information to overwhelm decision-makers.”
To learn more about the work Meghan, her team, and our other talented colleagues are doing to keep data safe, please visit leidos.com/cyber.