ODU Alum Allen Walker is working to change the face of cybersecurity « News @ ODU


By Joe Garvey

Allen Walker is grateful for how Old Dominion University supported him as he pursued his undergraduate and masters studies.

“When I explained to my professors, ‘Hey, I don’t understand this,’ even with the online courses I was taking in graduate school, they were literally breaking me down step by step,” Walker, 33, said. . “They didn’t have to do that. They could have said ‘It’s online, figure it out.’ But ODU just said, ‘Hey, how can we help you, how can we help you, how can we do this for you?'”

He repays that in large part.

Walker, who earned a BA in criminal justice in 2011 and an MS in cybersecurity in 2019, works for Boeing as a security design engineer and is an expert in encryption support, carbon black operations and secondary to terminal security for the entire Boeing enterprise worldwide. He also established a company, CySecSol, LLC, with a mission to diversify the cybersecurity field, prepare aspiring professionals for careers in cybersecurity, and help them pursue their academic education, especially the Cybersecurity School of ODU.

Walker, who was recently honored as a leader in modern technology at the STEM 2022 Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA) conference, recommended more than a dozen students to the school of cybersecurity at the ODU.

“I haven’t had a single dropout; I haven’t had a single failure,” Walker said. “Everyone has graduated or is still in the program.”

Hongyi “Michael” Wu, director of ODU’s School of Cybersecurity, said Walker was well deserving of the BEYA award. He noted that Walker was among ODU’s first graduating class to earn an MS in cybersecurity.

“Since then, he has been closely connected with ODU and has spoken highly of the University,” Wu said. all are minority students. This is an example of how word of mouth is the best marketing to grow our cybersecurity program.”

Walker formed CySeSol, LLC, in 2019 shortly after being hired by Boeing. His motives?

“I noticed at ODU that I didn’t see a lot of guys who looked like me,” he said. “Then when I went to Boeing, I certainly didn’t see a lot of guys who looked like me. So, I just want to change the rhetoric a bit.”

Attendance grew rapidly. Two people started internships at CySeSol in 2019; now there are about 100.

Trainees enter a one-year training program. There are three paths they can follow – get the certifications to go straight into the field, get the training they will need to enroll in ODU, or pursue both the certifications and the education components college. Conferences take place on Mondays via Zoom, and people can participate in the program at any time of the year. There is no limit to the number of trainees.

“I don’t want to be the reason anyone is embarrassed about pursuing this career field,” Walker explained. “So if they can’t join until March or May or July, then who am I to tell them to wait?”

Interns pay $150 to enter the program. Why this amount?

“Before I got to the position I’m in now, I thought $150 was a lot of money,” Walker said.

But when trainees, who also pay a quarterly $50 fee, leave the program, they are reimbursed $150 plus the cost of each certification they earn, which in some cases can add up to several thousand. of dollars.

“I’m not here to make money,” said Walker, whose eight-person volunteer leadership team includes ODU alumni Xavier Palmer, Lamar Pierce and Reginald Ralph in addition to Ariel Ramos, who will enter ODU’s cyber-diploma program in the fall. “We want to see them succeed by any means necessary. It’s okay that we don’t have funding. We’re impacting the lives of people who otherwise wouldn’t have had that opportunity. That’s the real win what we are looking for.”

Walker, who lives in Franklin, also offers the program in the City of Franklin Public Schools and Southampton County Public Schools systems.

Walker’s path to cybersecurity was not a straight line.

Her father served in the Navy and the family lived around the world before moving to Virginia when Walker was 17. After graduating from Azalea Garden Christian School in Norfolk, he enrolled in ODU in 2006. He said he ‘failed’ ODU in 2008, served in the army for nine years and finally graduated in 2016.

He wanted to be a state soldier. When he was not hired, he enrolled in ODU graduate school in pursuit of a degree in the humanities. After realizing it wasn’t for him, he moved into cybersecurity.

“I had no experience in that except for what I did in the military, which was army intelligence,” he said.

He thinks his journey could serve as a guide for others.

“We welcome everyone,” he said. “Even people who don’t fit the mold. My main goal is to get people who otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get into cybersecurity. People who never thought it was something thing they could do. I tell everyone, I got into cybersecurity in 2018, just when I started at ODU. If I can do it knowing nothing, then anyone can do it.

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