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October 24, 2022

Transitioning from law enforcement to cybersecurity: A U.S. Digital Corps Fellow’s journey

By Jamila Crawford, a U.S. Digital Corps Fellow at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)


October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. In May 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order 14028, “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity,” making cybersecurity a government-wide priority.

Launched last year, the U.S. Digital Corps is a two-year, full-time opportunity housed at the General Services Administration (GSA) for early-career technologists to start their careers working on high-impact projects across the federal government — including in cybersecurity.

Jamila Crawford, a U.S. Digital Corps Fellow at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), shares her journey working in cybersecurity and her current work at CISA.

What made you consider public service?

My undergraduate degree is in Sociology and my studies focused largely on social change and human behaviors, so I knew even in school that I wanted to work with the public in some way. Four months after completing my degree in 2015, I began working in public service at the state level with the Georgia Department of Corrections. Shortly after starting, I was sure I wanted to remain in public service in the long term.

The impact you’re able to make in government — whether it’s protecting the community, ensuring that technology works to get the job done, or developing policies that will benefit the public — makes public service unique and worthwhile. I often reflect on my past roles and those whose paths I’ve crossed since starting in public service seven years ago, and I can honestly say the feeling from doing meaningful work is long-lasting.

What was your path to the U.S. Digital Corps?

My professional career started as a state of Georgia felony probation and parole officer and I later transitioned to the federal government as a U.S. Pretrial Investigations Officer for the U.S. District Courts. While working as an officer, I was particularly interested in the intersection of technology and crime and specifically how technology is used to commit criminal acts, like human trafficking and identity theft. My interest in cybersecurity was sparked when I completed a cybercrime investigations course. Shortly after that, I enrolled in school to complete my Master’s in Cybersecurity. After so many “no’s” and a hunger for an opportunity to enter a technology role, I took a leap of faith and left law enforcement to work as an Information Technology Student Trainee for the Bureau of Prisons, a term-limited, one-year appointment.

With only three months left in my trainee position, I learned about the Digital Corps and I immediately thought to myself “this is perfect.” I’m a career changer, and that is something the Digital Corps appreciates — unique professional experiences and transferable skills. The opportunity that the Digital Corps offers to make an impact so early in your career is not that common for those of us working in the federal government, as most positions require extensive years of experience. The Digital Corps was the chance I’ve longed for - to work in cybersecurity in the federal government.

Can you tell us a bit about the project you are currently working on?

I work with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a component of the Department of Homeland Security. For context, CISA leads the nation’s cybersecurity efforts to protect our cyber and physical infrastructure and also offers cyber services to federal, state, local and tribal agencies. I work in the Cybersecurity Shared Services Division and am tasked with validating cybersecurity services using risk and resilience assessments to ensure compliance with EO 14028 and applicable standards such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and ISO Control Frameworks. The validation process is used to reduce the risk and threat profiles of Federal Civilian Executive Branch (FCEB) agencies.

Currently, I am working on validating the Protective Domain Name System (DNS) Service “ProtDNS,” a DNS firewall service that will be used by all FCEB agencies to defend against malicious cyber activity. The DNS service features include enhanced threat intelligence, zero-trust alignment, and real-time alerts that will safeguard the federal enterprise.

What do you like about working in the federal government?

To me, working in the federal government is an opportunity to make an impact on a large scale. Whether you’re in emergency response, technology, legal, or law enforcement, the work you do makes a difference in the lives of so many people.

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