Master of Science in Cyber Security

A USD Cybersecurity Entrepreneur Story: Lynn Hoffman and Cibernetika

What’s the common thread in a career journey that includes working in international trade at the World Trade Center in San Diego, handling community relations for a U.S. Navy admiral, serving as chief of protocol for the city’s mayor and now launching her own business?

“Absolutely! I even laugh with some of the instructors and faculty that I have kind of an obsession with USD,” said Hoffman, who first set foot on campus in her late teens, curious about college but also thinking, “How am I going to decide right now what I want to be in my life?”

With some vision, lots of hard work and three degrees from USD, she’s been figuring it out as she goes along, and having a lot of fun in the process. Here’s a quick recap: Try to keep up, Hoffman is a whirlwind of energy and we’ve got some ground to cover.

After her mom encouraged her to earn her bachelor’s in Business Administration from USD in 1998, she landed an internship and then a job as trade research manager at the World Trade Center in San Diego.

Next stop was a fascinating job serving as director of community relations and protocol for the admiral overseeing command of U.S. Naval Air Forces in the region. But one day while attending a lecture at USD’s Joan B. Kroc School of Peace and Justice, Hoffman’s career curiosity was calling again. The speech by a United Nations spokesperson had awakened a passion for international affairs and the next day she started thinking about graduate school at — where else? — the University of San Diego.

“I thought, I need to keep growing,” said Hoffman. It turns out that USD had the ideal program for her to pursue her interests. When she completed her master’s in Global Leadership in 2006, she took on the role of chief of protocol for then-San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, making sure that visiting dignitaries were taken care of and a slew of related duties.

After several years there, she was invited to return to the World Trade Center where she began work on a project devoted to better coordination and communication between the hundreds of World Trade Centers located across the globe. “While doing that I got hacked and my website was taken over,” said Hoffman. Though she was able to recover her work, the experience “taught me a lesson.”

And the rest is cybersecurity history.

Cybersecurity Degree Connects to World of Opportunity

Not surprisingly, Hoffman parlayed her “lesson” into more education and, ultimately, her own business. To Hoffman, her brush with cyber catastrophe looked like another opportunity.

Ready for a new challenge — one that connected to her passion for technology, her work in government and the military, as well as her business management and leadership skills — Hoffman decided to return to USD once more, this time to earn her master’s in Cybersecurity and Operations Leadership.

The program’s online format, designed to provide optimal flexibility for busy working professionals, allowed her to complete the work on her own schedule; while her proximity to the USD campus enabled her to meet with professors and take part in the series of “Cyber Mixers” and networking events held by the school.

“The people that they bring in as panel speakers have been amazing — very, very informative,” with plenty of opportunity for industry networking before and after. At one of the events, she even got a lead on a job offer. “It really helped with my confidence,” she recalled.

Hoffman has high praise for the USD program and its effectiveness in training current and future cybersecurity leaders in this still relatively young, yet critical industry. The majority of the professors draw on experience gained from working in the field (the San Diego region has emerged as a leading global cybersecurity hub), and Hoffman said she also gained “a wealth of information” from interacting with fellow students using program’s robust online educational portal.

With more colleges and universities launching cybersecurity degree programs to meet the rising demand, part of the challenge is to align the curriculum offerings with both the needs of organizations everywhere that are grappling with the effects of a cybersecurity talent shortage, while also connecting the academic experience to the regimen of professional certifications.

She was pleased with how well her USD degree work prepared for her the CISSP, which is one of the industry’s premier certifications. “At USD, in fact, it almost feels like each class corresponds to a domain of this particular exam,” she said.

Since graduating, Hoffman has realized a dream of founding her own company. Cibernetika works with companies to help them assess their technology infrastructure and operations, and to incorporate cybersecurity preventative measures and best practices into their business activities. One of her business strategies is to position Cibernetika as a women-owned small business to best compete for government contracts.

Hoffman loves that there is also room for creativity in her job. For example, she is launching a new blog featuring cybersecurity tips, helpful for companies from any industry or for boosting your own personal online security.

Cybersecurity is “definitely an industry of opportunities,” she said. Employers want certifications, but they are also looking for candidates with real-life experience. Overall, Hoffman suggests taking a very focused approach to developing your own goals and figuring out where you want to take your career rather than just leaving things to chance.

And the University of San Diego offers strong support in doing just that; take it from a proud three-time USD degree holder.

A dedicated lifelong learner who is deeply appreciative of the relationship with her alma mater that now spans three decades, Hoffman has no current plans to add a fourth degree or branch out in another career direction. But if she ever does, odds are you will find her at USD. “Every single time I step onto that campus,” said Hoffman, “I just feel like I belong there, and that it belongs to me.”

I think we could have a stronger tie to the cyber right off the bat. What if it was something like, “Often times when people get hacked it is devastating. For Lynn Hijar Hoffman it was an opportunity to roll up her sleeves, get an in depth cyber security master’s degree and fight back by starting her own cyber security company. It’s not the typical hacking reaction, but Lynn is anything but typical”….

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