Why? How? These Two Questions Drive Daryl Lederle In Her Quest To Learn And Grow

Daryl Lederle Management & Program Analyst, US Department of Agriculture

Daryl is a self-professed big thinker who loves a good challenge. She is fascinated by connections, particularly connections between science, technology and the resulting impact on policy. So, it should come as no surprise that Daryl possesses a master’s degree in International Science & Technology Policy from The George Washington University.

For the past nine years, Daryl has served as a management & program analyst at the U.S. Forest Service, an agency within the United States Department of Agriculture. The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

Daryl is a recent graduate of the Federal Reskilling Cyber Academy (FCRA). She is ready for a change and she is ready for new challenges. Here, Daryl talks to us about her experience participating in the FCRA and offers insights for others interested in participating in the Academy as well.

How did you get interested in computer technology and, more specifically, cybersecurity?

I’ve never been a computer nerd. However, I’ve always been captivated by the intersection of daily life and security. As our world becomes more and more automated, we rely on networks we can’t see or touch, and people we’ve never met. And this becomes normal and commonplace. We entrust our personal information to the Web, with a naïve expectation of security and privacy. As I read more and more about basic online security, I am struck by the sheer enormity of everything that’s out there and the risks/rewards that “everything” entails. My computer knowledge extends to what I would imagine is the very edge of the cybersecurity realm. However, after participating in the FCRA, I know a lot more!

Why did you choose to apply to the FCRA?

I have been in my current position for nine years. While I’ve benefited from many rewarding experiences in this job, I am ready for a new direction. When the USDA’s CIO sent out an email telling everyone about this program I looked at it like a Hail Mary pass; I’ve got nothing to lose by trying.

During my time with USDA and in graduate school, I honed my policy, analysis, and management skills and would like to apply these to the cyber field. I enjoy learning, and want to be in a field that is constantly changing and forcing me to adapt. I am a competent, innovative, logical and flexible thinker. I believe these attributes enable me to be a value-added asset to the federal cybersecurity workforce. I want to work on our Nation’s newest battlefield and protect the integrity of the services the government provides to the American people.

What did you find most valuable about the program?

The CyberStart Essentials course was terrific. It was very digestible and an excellent introduction to a topic that is likened to learning a foreign language. If I hadn’t had this course I would have been lost. The games were also incredibly valuable. Real-world scenarios helped cement concepts learned in the classroom and online. Frankly, everyone should have this opportunity, as I think it provides a baseline level of knowledge every Federal employee should have.

Bigger picture, the FCRA exposed me to a completely new area of study and associated careers. I’ve been on one track for my entire career. It was great to see potentially new and exciting opportunities.

What did you like most about the FCRA?

I really enjoyed the community created within the FCR It was a very safe and welcoming environment where I felt that everyone, instructors and classmates alike, wanted me to succeed. It was not competitive or cutthroat. We were all in this together. My fellow classmates and I bonded during our time in the classroom.

It was very cool to meet my instructors who are working professionals within the cybersecurity community. They were approachable and open. I could easily engage with them and ask questions.

What did you find most surprising about the FCRA?

I knew that the FCRA would offer welcome challenges. However, the sheer breadth of the topics covered and the amount of information that was presented was unexpected.

What did you expect of the program and were your expectations met?

I didn’t have any expectations going in because I have no background in cybersecurity. I participated in the FCRA to challenge my brain and think a different way. I wanted it to be difficult. And it was. So, I guess you can say that my expectations were met and exceeded.

What advice would you offer someone considering applying to the FCRA?

You need to have your supervisor on board. This program is all encompassing so a commitment from your supervisor is essential. Doing your job while simultaneously committing your all to the FCRA is incredibly difficult.

Also, take every opportunity to engage, connect with instructors and classmates. Ask questions. Take advantage of the myriad resources offered to you. Fully immerse yourself in the program and embrace this chance at a new and exciting career path.

What’s next for Daryl Lederle?

I discovered that I really like open source intelligence – collecting and analyzing publicly available information. I think I’d like to find a job in that arena in the federal government. That said, there are many cyber career paths that I have yet to know. In terms of departments, I am particularly interested in the Department of Defense (DoD). The DoD has a cyber command which unifies the direction of cyberspace operations and strengthens the DoD’s cyberspace capabilities. In the meantime, I am exploring a master’s certificate to further boost my value to potential government employers.