MITRE Engineer's Versatility Garners ResultsFebruary 2015
MITRE's Michael Kristan relishes the hands-on nature of his work and the opportunities he's had to work directly with sponsors and on corporate projects. Since coming here seven years ago, he's been a versatile contributor to several projects for the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. Recently, he's focused on major corporate initiatives.
"Although I've been in the same department since I started, I've been fortunate to support a wide variety of programs," he says. "Each one has given me new skills, new competencies, and new leadership opportunities."
On one of Kristan's first assignments, he supported the Air Force Special Operations Command with an acquisition project and developed software for a live deployment. "We were looking for new ways to improve ground-to-air digital communications. Because I did rapid prototyping, I had a lot of direct interaction with the sponsor."
During the same period, he spent half his time supporting the development of the Nett Warrior Android device. The prototype gives advanced navigation, situational awareness, and sensor information specific to the soldier's needs.
"With both of these programs, I really enjoyed being out in the field working with the users."
Kristan then took on several new research initiatives and sponsor work. He was the systems architect and developer for Cursor-on-Target plug-ins and software. He also researched ways to improve security for multicast domain name services. In addition, he supported MITRE's work with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in implementing an enhanced Web architecture and software distribution system
In the homeland security domain, Kristan contributed to emergency communications research. The work gave civilian first responders improved capabilities across all types of equipment and operating systems.
Facilitating the Corporate Cloud
Kristan currently supports several cross-corporate initiatives for using cloud computing in infrastructure and research. "I assist MITRE staff with their cloud computing needs. The challenge is that each project has its own unique requirements for moving into the cloud. So my work involves a lot of brainstorming, investigating problems, gathering requirements, and developing solutions."
He finds the cloud computing work very engaging and enjoys the opportunity to learn more about emerging technologies and cybersecurity issues. "I love being able to work in a laboratory prototyping environment and researching new systems."
Another major benefit of his corporate research is that government sponsors will use many of the cloud computing findings as well. According to Kristan's group leader Jeff Doane, "Mike has done a great job transitioning this corporate knowledge in cloud computing and directly applying it to a number of sponsor programs."
Kristan values the ability to apply his skills where they're needed most. "I'm fortunate to be able to move around and work on multiple projects with different teams. MITRE people are great. It's truly an environment where you can continue learning and try new things that interest you."
Singing a New Tune
Despite his busy schedule at work, for the last several years Kristan was also in a master's degree program in computer information systems (with a concentration in information security) from Boston University. He participated in MITRE's educational assistance program, which provides tuition reimbursement for work-related coursework. He completed the degree last summer.
Now that he has more free time, he's pursuing an old hobby—singing in a choir. "I sang in a number of different choirs while in school. A couple of years ago I had the privilege of singing the national anthem at Fenway Park with some of my fellow Worcester Polytechnic Institute alumni."
He's recently auditioned for a couple of new choral groups. "I'm really looking forward to getting back into it."
—by Kay M. Upham