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From Outstanding Sailor to Outstanding Student

A sailor in the U.S. Navy for twenty years, Erik W. Schroeder, retired from the Navy in 2006, and that’s when his thirst for education began. In just six years, Schroeder completed his BS in information technology as well as a MS in Technology Management and MS in Management of Secure Information Systems (cyber security management), both graduate degrees from George Mason’s School of Business. Schroeder was also selected as the Outstanding Student Award for the cyber security management program.Erik W. Schroeder

A dedicated sailor and a dedicated student, Schroeder understood the importance of education to propel his career. Five years after retiring from the Navy, he realized he had limited civilian management experience and felt he would benefit from the close cohort experience the graduate business programs at Mason provided. Schroeder says the masters in technology management and the masters in cyber security management programs had a great mix of students and faculty with commercial, government, and military experience, which was extremely enlightening and helped build a strong, cohesive cohort from which he could learn and grow.

Schroeder found the cyber security management program’s capstone course his most rewarding experience. His team developed a HIPAA Compliance Management System for the American College of Cardiology. The system raised the organization’s overall level of security by helping them continuously monitor their HIPAA compliance and reduce the cost of their annual third party HIPAA audits. Schroeder says, “Our team spent a lot of time working together, and it was very rewarding to see our project and presentation come together and to be fortunate enough to come in first place.” In addition to hands on experience gained from completing a consulting project for a client as part of the capstone, he says the project enhanced his writing, presenting, and organizational skills, which was extremely valuable in his civilian work projects.

Schroeder began his career in the U.S. Navy as a radioman onboard submarines just two weeks after his high school graduation. Over the course of his time in the Navy, he completed nineteen strategic patrols onboard missile carrying “Boomer” submarines and turned a passion for computers into one of his most significant career decisions.

Looking for a new challenge, he volunteered for an information system administrator position despite having no prior networking experience. The risk paid off, and in 2001 he was honored as the USS West Virginia’s Sailor of the Year and was promoted to Chief Petty Officer. His final tour of duty brought him to Washington, D.C., as the communication officer for strategic systems programs.

The career-oriented environment of Washington, D.C., helped him understand the value of higher education. Schroeder says he liked the executive format of the technology management program along with their unique entrepreneurial capstone project. He continued on with the cyber security management graduate degree to stay at the forefront of the emerging cyber security field.

The peer learning environment the graduate program cohorts create is often hard to understand before starting the program but often one of the most valued aspects of the programs. “I’m really going to miss our Saturday discussions and debates along with the close friendships that I developed over the course of the programs,” says Schroeder.

But rather than just leave those discussions behind, Schroeder took the network that he built during his time in the program and created a Flipboard magazine on information security articles. Flipboard (flipboard.com) is a service that allows you to add your favorite social networks, publications, news feeds, and blogs to stay connected using a magazine-like graphical user interface. It is one of the most popular smart phone and tablet applications and it can also be accessed through a regular web browser as well. Created in May 2013 as a way for his cohort to keep up with the latest cyber security articles impacting CISOs and cyber security professionals, today he has over 400 readers and has posted more than 3,600 articles. Schroeder says, “It’s helped me keep up with the latest trends in the industry too.”

Schroeder is currently the director of IT and information systems security manager (ISSM) at BAI Inc. He aims to one day sail to the top of IT management and hold a position as chief information security officer (CISO) or chief information officer (CIO), leveraging both his MS in Management of Secure Information Systems and his MS in Technology Management.

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Mary Crowson

Mary Crowson is a program operations specialist for the Research Partnerships and Grants Initiative within George Mason's School of Business.

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