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Kathy Warden of Northrop Grumman: 'My Career Has Been Very Eclectic'

Kathy Warden of Northrop Grumman: 'My Career Has Been Very Eclectic' - top government contractors - best government contracting event
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Kathy Warden of Northrop Grumman: 'My Career Has Been Very Eclectic' - top government contractors - best government contracting event
Kathy Warden, Northrop Grumman

Kathy Warden began her career in the commercial environment working with General Electric, and spent a little less than a decade with the company in a variety of roles ranging from computer systems development to product management and strategy. After leaving GE, she joined an entrepreneurial start-up, leading a management consulting practice that was acquired by Veridian. At that point, she began working with federal government customers, specifically the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community. For the last 10 years, Warden was a general manager for various defense and intelligence businesses at General Dynamics. She now serves as vice president of Cyber and SIGINT Systems for Northrop Grumman, where she is the general manager of a unit with 1,500 people who support cyber, information operations and ISR missions for a wide array of defense and intelligence customers.

TheNewNewInternet: What are some of the challenges you have met in your role?

Kathy Warden: One of the key challenges that I think all of us face is continuing to scale the organization as it gets larger and larger managing across the diverse set of customers with different needs and aligning the organization to proactively address those needs. In particular, in the recent years the tempo has really increased with our government demands for addressing irregular warfare threats. Particularly, in the cyber domain, the pace of technology introduction has increased rapidly and it requires us to be more agile and responsive to stay ahead of these changes.

TNNI: What are some of the recent threats that you have seen?

Warden: Working in the cyber domain, I see cyber threats evolving over time in complexity and frequency, although these threat vectors are not new. I am excited to see the public awareness of the cyber threats has increased over the last several years. That“™s good, because it“™s become more of a debate in the public domain.

TNNI: What are some of the cyber projects you are currently working on?

Warden: We have a variety of projects for U.S. Cyber Command and the Intelligence Community, and those projects range from very large projects down to smaller seedling efforts. Mainly, they are oriented toward developing technology and providing services to help identify the threat, categorize the threat and then mitigate the threat going forward. The primary projects in my organization deal not only with the pure play cyber of managing that threat activity but also the intelligence resources needed to support situational awareness of the cyber domain.

TNNI: What“™s your take on the new Cyber Command?

Warden: I think it“™s absolutely a step in the right direction to have a coordinating and unifying body across the Department of Defense to enable operations in the cyber domain.  I see tremendous opportunity to pull through existing technologies that are stove-piped in the various services to create a common operational picture of the cyber domain and enable freedom of operation in that domain. The Command will enable the situational awareness that we need to operate within the cyber domain; not just defend it but also to use it as an asset for our national security.

TNNI: How do you think the Command will affect government contracting?

Warden: I don“™t see the Command impacting the contracting mechanism as much as I see it impacting the operational domain within cyber. We do have contracts with JTF-GNO and JFCC-NW that will roll under the purview of Cyber Command and there will certainly be a change in the way those services are acquired as Cyber Command takes responsibility for those programs. However, I don“™t see a major acquisition reform related to the stand-up of the Cyber Command. What I do see is across all of the services, particularly in the service cyber components, a desire to embrace more rapid acquisitions and that“™s not unique to cyber, but it“™s certainly being driven by the pace by which technology changes in the cyber domain.

TNNI: What can we do to work toward a more international collaboration to fight cyber crime?

Warden:  I see a lot of good activity going on between the U.S. government and its allies in sharing both capabilities, as well as debates around policy and how policy reform can enable cyber operations. For example, Northrop Grumman is actively working with the U.K. at the moment in a number of forums, including City Forum and Chatam House to raise public awareness in the U.K. about the cyber threat.  We are having an open debate that allows UK leadership to identify and communicate steps necessary   to enable dynamic network defense operations.  That kind of activity, where we“™re bringing together key decision-makers and policyshapers in the U.S. into the U.K. and vice versa to leverage the advances of both nations, has positive impact for both nations.

TNNI:  What do you think makes a good cybersecurity professional?

Warden:  I think core to it is strong critical-thinking skills. There is not necessarily a specific background that I have found that makes a good cybersecurity professional, meaning there“™s not a certain college degree or even a field of study, but it“™s more the ability to analyze data and very rapidly draw correlation and understanding and to see that big picture from a lot of small details that come from the technologies that we have employed in cyberspace.  For me, I look for those skills to be very comfortable with technology, apply critical thinking to the problems set and to really be open to change and keeping their skills up to date as technology evolves.

TNNI:  What“™s the best career advice that you could give someone who wants to go into cyber?

Warden:  I would say making technology a hobby and getting comfortable with technology is important. The people who can do that will distinguish themselves in this space because they are able to rapidly add value and see problems in ways that others are not. The other advice that I would give to someone looking at a career in this area is to realize that it is a very broad field.  We need people to work broad policy issues. We need people who work the technology. We need people who have strong operations skill set. It shouldn“™t be viewed as a very narrow career field that is just about technology. It is quite a broad career field.

TNNI:  Have you always been interested in technology?

Warden:  I started my career with a strong focus on technology and that base of understanding is important, but my interest has evolved over time to considering how the technology is applied and used for strategic advantage.

TNNI:  What is something that most people would be surprised to learn about you?

Warden: I think what most people are surprised to learn about me is that I have moved back and forth from various industries. I have worked in the technology field, in the financial services industry–my MBA is in marketing, I spent time in commercial as well as government spaces, so my career has been very eclectic.

TNNI:  Do you have any unusual hobbies?

Warden: No, I don“™t have any unusual hobbies. I have two young children, so I spend a lot of my free time with them in doing the things that they enjoy.  It has turned me into an avid soccer mom. I like to travel. My hobbies are really quite normal.

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