An Opportunity to Jump into Cybersecurity and Make a Difference

John Pahnke Budget Analyst, US Department of Defense

John Pahnke’s career within the federal government spans more than three decades, including 24 years of military service and seven years as a federal employee. John, a dedicated public servant, has experience across many discipline’s including health services management, facilities management, aeromedical evacuation and budget analysis. He attributes his broad-based experience to his willingness to work where he is most needed.

Currently, John is a budget analyst for the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM). USTRANSCOM, a command of the United States Department of Defense, manages the United States’ global defense transportation system; coordinating people and transportation assets whenever and wherever needed. John manages a $464M budget within the USTRANSCOM IT portfolio, including Air Mobility Command (Air Force), Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (Army) and Military Surface Command (Navy)

Here, John provides insights into his Federal Cyber Reskilling Academy (FCRA) experience for others who may wish to broaden their skills and their professional horizons.

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

My interest in computers began when I came to the United States from Belize at the age of 16. My first computer was a Texas Instrument. During my teen years, I persevered and taught myself about burgeoning computer technologies. In college, I pursued a degree in Computer Information Science. However, upon enlisting in the military, a career in information technology was put on the back burner.

My interest in cybersecurity was peaked while in my current position at USTRANSCOM. I manage budgets for the IT portfolio and recognize federal agencies reliance on the commercial sector to meet cybersecurity demands. I find this to be an exciting opportunity as this need will continue to grow and so will the necessary funding.

Why did you choose to apply to the FCRA?

I saw the FCRA as a terrific opportunity to finally jump into cybersecurity. I believe that I can best support my country and enhance my professional path by shifting my career to the cybersecurity sector. The need to fill the cybersecurity talent pipeline is great. I want to be where I can make a difference.

What did you find most beneficial about the program?

The hands-on labs and the real-world scenarios helped cement the concepts that we were being taught.

What did you find most surprising about the FCRA?

I came into the Academy with an open mind and without expectations. That said, I was a little surprised by the amount of information being taught. It was a quite a bit.

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

The FCRA is a big commitment. I would say that you should make sure you have uninterrupted time to devote to classes and self-study. There is a tremendous amount of information you will need to digest.

What’s next for John Pahnke?

There are so many different paths within cybersecurity − Incident response, risk assessments, application security, security investigations, compliance, education. I find so many cybersecurity domains fascinating; however, my primary focus is on either incident response or application security. Long term, I’d like to explore using my soft skills as a cybersecurity educator.