Chair’s Message | Building Community

Oct. 23, 2020 

Dear GT Cybersecurity and Privacy community,  

Forming a new school means enabling the mechanics of an academic unit — committees, budgets, facilities, curricula, hiring faculty and staff — and all of the back-office things that make it work. Those are things that we usually only notice when something goes wrong. Otherwise they just fade into the background after a while. The one thing that we notice every day is the character of the place. What’s the culture like? Is this a community I want to join? Are my contributions valued? Is anyone else invested in my success? These are things that can’t be enabled by just declaring it so. Culture can’t be turned on like a switch.   

People who study organizations will tell you that the character of an organization must be developed over time. You don’t always know if you’re heading in the right direction, but successful organizations almost always point to intangibles like character and culture as keys to their success. It’s especially true of innovative organizations. We spent a lot of time in the Commission on Creating the Next (CNE) discussing Georgia Tech’s culture. Robert Kegan’s book, An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization, was required reading for Commission Members. We even appropriated the idea of being deliberately innovative for the title of the CNE Report. I think about how to be deliberate a lot these days. 

Since there’s no magic button to push, maybe the best we can hope to achieve in these early days of the school is to talk about the communities — students, faculty, alumni, industry partners, and the larger academic ecosystem of peers and collaborators — that will come together and define our culture. In this week’s message I’d like to focus on some of their higher-profile activities. That’s how most people outside the school will know us. We may be a new school, but we are not exactly starting from scratch. 

  • Vice President for Interdisciplinary Research Raheem Beyah and Chief Information Security Officer Anant “Jimmy” Lummis headlined a virtual panel discussion with other Georgia Tech cybersecurity experts this week to discuss creating a cybersmart culture and how organizations might manage increased network vulnerabilities and attacks during the pandemic and after. It was an informative talk with many insights and much engagement from the more than 100 attendees. 
  • Students with an eye on startup success recently participated in Cybersecurity Demo Day at Georgia Tech, hosted by the Institute for Information Security and Privacy (IISP). Students presented innovative research ideas before a panel of expert judges at the finale. Research with the best chance of commercialization or demonstrating the most impact were awarded cash prizes. Read about the award winners or watch the video.  
  • Alumni are our ambassadors and role models off campus who enrich our community in many ways. Georgia Tech has had many graduates go on to become influencers and leaders in the cybersecurity industry. The Fall issue of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine features the new school (p.14) and also includes the alumni association’s inaugural 40 Under 40 list of accomplished alumni. Kabir Barday, CS 09 and CEO of OneTrust, is among the group. You can read about his journey leading a company that provides a privacy, security and third-party risk technology platform to more than 3,000 companies. Also take a peek at the rest of the alumni group with this interactive graphic developed by the College of Computing. 

Engaging members of the community is a key part of our success and I have been talking with faculty, students, and alumni about the plans for the school and their involvement. We will continue that discussion in an upcoming faculty meeting. Don’t worry if you do not have a formal appointment in the school. Almost no one will for several months yet. Please consider this an open invitation to attend these meetings. At a more informal level, I will borrow an excellent idea from the other GT Computing school chairs. I have asked Kenya Payton, the assistant to the chair, to schedule weekly open office hours with the chair every Friday. No agenda. No committee assignments to report. Just a chance to ask and answer questions and share thoughts about how the school should develop (deliberately!)   


Richard DeMillo
Charlotte B. and Roger C. Warren Chair of Computing
Chair, School of Cybersecurity and Privacy  

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Follow me on Twitter @rad_atl and @richde