Q&A with Duke ME in Cybersecurity Alumni: 2024 Alum James Leonard on how Duke Cyber Program trained him as a skilled CISO

May 29, 2024 | Emilia Chiscop-Head, PhD, Cybersecurity Program Manager

Q&A with Duke ME in Cybersecurity Alumni: 2024 Alum James Leonard on how Duke Cyber Program trained him as a skilled CISO

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Founder and CFO of Evlos Technology, James Leonard, graduated from the Duke ME in Cybersecurity program after earning a PhD in Business and a third bachelor’s degree, in cyber.

- How has your degree helped you be prepared for your leading role and future career goals?

Jamie Leonard: Over the last few years, I have taken on CISO responsibilities for my small company. The cybersecurity master’s program gave me the knowledge and skill set to prioritize and implement cybersecurity countermeasures, policies, procedures, and technology. This is important because our small business's resources are minimal; thus, maximizing our cyber defense while minimizing time, effort, and cost has been critical to our ability to meet the annual goals of our plan.

- What are some of the most essential skills you gained during the ME program?

Jamie Leonard: Coming into this program, I had little experience with incident response, risk management, and cybersecurity compliance. The cybersecurity program helped me develop several essential skills that I have been able to apply in my work. Three of the most important skills I gained are:

  • Incident response: I now understand better what is needed to implement a good incident response plan, policy, and process.
  • Risk management: I learned how to identify and assess risks to our assets and assign a potential cost to each risk based on its estimated frequency and severity.
  • Cybersecurity Standards and Compliance: I better understood the compliance security controls and the cybersecurity attacks they work to prevent. This has allowed me to implement them at work successfully. I have successfully applied these skills in my workplace through this program.

What advice do you have for other cyber students on having a good internship and career experience?

Jamie Leonard: I recommend that interns look for positions that align with their career interests. Several faculty members in the program can help. I also recommend that they ask the faculty in the program to help them create a near-term and long-term career roadmap based on their interests, current cybersecurity best practices, and projected future cybersecurity skills and needs from the industry. This will allow the students to benefit from the program's lessons while better understanding the career path(s) that interest the intern.

How will you stay connected with the Duke Cybersecurity master’s program?

Jamie Leonard: I feel obligated to support the program, which gave me the knowledge to implement the appropriate security countermeasures efficiently and effectively at my workplace. I plan to keep in touch with the program leadership and contribute to the program as leadership deems fit. So far, this has included talking with prospective students, answering questionnaires like this one, bringing on current students as interns as needed with my small business, looking to attend conferences or presentations that are open to alums, and more.

Learn more about James and other online Cybersecurity students: The impressive stories of three entrepreneurs and online Duke Cybersecurity Students | Duke Cybersecurity Master of Engineering