By Douglas Esser
An internship with T-Mobile while Tanya Kumar was a University of Washington Bothell student launched her cybersecurity career as an information security analyst with the company in Washington, D.C.
Kumar, who was president of the Associated Students of the University of Washington Bothell for the 2016-17 year, graduated in winter 2018 with a degree in Law, Economics and Public Policy. Kumar’s internship at T-Mobile’s Bellevue headquarters brought her to the attention of Drew Morin, the company’s director of federal cybersecurity technology and engineering programs.
Now, Kumar is researching reports, attending conferences and working alongside Morin as they interact with policy makers, lawmakers and regulators on cybersecurity issues. It’s high-level work in an important sector that had at first intimidated Kumar because she thought she needed a more-technical background.
“But the reality is cybersecurity is so cross-cutting,” Kumar said. “To do well, you need different perspectives and backgrounds.”
Cybersecurity is also interesting and fast-moving, she said.
“It’s a big learning curve, but the tradeoff is so rewarding,” she said. “There is so much you can do in cybersecurity, and T-Mobile in itself has a great corporate culture. It supports inclusivity. It supports work-life balance. Coming straight from UW Bothell, it was very familiar for me.”
T-Mobile internships are part of cybersecurity offerings at UW Bothell that include academic courses, research and related programs. Many of these are coordinated through the Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecurity (CIAC), a tri-campus center based on the Bothell campus. As part of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month in October, for example, CIAC partnered with the UW Bothell Gray Hats student club and the Master of Infrastructure Planning and Management at UW in Seattle to host a forum on threats to the election system. The event’s speakers included Rep. Suzan DelBene and Julie Wise, director of elections for King County.
For someone interested in law, economics and public policy, Kumar could not have found a better mentor than Morin. He not only represents T-Mobile with policy makers, lawmakers and regulators, but he also translates that information back to T-Mobile leaders to give them an idea where policies, laws and regulations are heading.
“It’s a job that really keeps you on your toes and requires a flexible mindset,” said Morin, who said recent issues have included 5G wireless network security, GPS vulnerabilities and supply-chain risk management.
“Tanya works with me in almost all these areas,” Morin said. “I give her a lot of leeway because she’s demonstrated she is very capable, smart and able to work independently.”
A recent task for Kumar is researching blockchain, the distributed ledger technology best known for cryptocurrencies but growing in many other internet applications. Her white paper could affect how T-Mobile chooses to relate to blockchain, Morin said. Photo courtesy of T-Mobile
“It’s a matter of her being able to understand the technology enough to work with policy makers and then work with the engineers, who understand it deeper, to help them understand what the policy makers are looking to do,” Morin said.
In all, Morin and Kumar have more than two dozen projects on their white board, some of which involve the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Homeland Security and industry associations, Morin said.
“I’ve been impressed by her capabilities and willingness to jump in and do the research necessary to get going on these things,” Morin said. “She didn’t come out of school with a bunch of book knowledge. She came out of school with an understanding as to what was going on with the industry. “
That’s the kind of employee Morin needed — “someone who could translate technical items to nontechnical people and vice versa,” he said. ”She is able to think critically and also articulate clearly.”
T-Mobile currently has 12 interns in the latest round of its cybersecurity co-op program, said Olivia DuBois, program manager.
“Cybersecurity threats across the globe are increasing, and it is imperative that we continue to keep our customers’ trust and to keep their data confidential. That is why we are thrilled to offer our cybersecurity co-op program with UW Bothell,” DuBois said. “We find the best talent on campus who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and help us fight against the bad guys.”
Learn about the Master of Science in Cyber Security Engineering and Graduate Certificate in Software Design & Development at UW Bothell.
Learn about the BA in Law, Economics, and Public Policy and Master of Arts in Policy Studies at UW Bothell.