JB Blackshire at podium

Cybersecurity Engineer Discovers Himself Through Service

Cybersecurity engineer JB Blackshire makes an impact at MITRE as a specialist in defensive cyber operations and as a leader in two Business Resource Groups: the Black Culture Network and The Veterans’ Council.

My early experiences inspired me to become the kind of person who connects ideas and people, and MITRE lets me do just that.

In December, cybersecurity engineer JB Blackshire was honored with MITRE’s inaugural Susan Mbawuike Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) Leadership Excellence Award. As co-chair of our Black Culture Network Business Resource Group (BRG), Blackshire connects people from all over the corporation. “Nothing gives us a better understanding of who people truly are, where they came from, and what their background is than to make opportunities to sit together and share our stories,” he says. Here, Blackshire shares his own story.

As a child, I consumed books like they were food—immersing myself into their universes and how they were built. Reading and academic success were escapes from my challenges of growing up mixed-race in the South—and ultimately shaped my outlook and viewpoint of who I am today.

As a cybersecurity engineer, I’m part of a team that specializes in understanding defensive cyber operations. But MITRE is also a people company. Here, I’m surrounded by supportive and passionate people who are always ready to step up, lend a hand, encourage, and guide. My early experiences inspired me to become the kind of person who connects ideas and people, and MITRE lets me do just that.

Career Pivots and Paths

I had a baseball scholarship to college, but I left after one term to join the Army. I don’t think I was ready for the freedoms that college posed at that time, so I gravitated toward the structure, discipline, and expectations of being a servicemember instead.

The Army was also an opportunity to expand my leadership skills. Right out of basic training I was promoted and two years in, I was a sergeant. I spent my military career in training, development, and adaptation of civilians to military life, both stateside and overseas.

After I transitioned out of active duty, I joined the reserves—and MITRE. A job fair led me to an admin position for a sponsor project at the Pentagon. Due to my military experience, from the start I had opportunities to take on engineering tasks, where I excelled at and loved the work.

My early experiences inspired me to become the kind of person who connects ideas and people, and MITRE lets me do just that.                                

JB Blackshire, MITRE cybersecurity engineer

Next Steps with Support

As I reached the highest level of admin work, my leadership saw the spark of my potential and straight-out asked me what it was I really wanted to do. Their fostering and championing of me led to my putting my career on hold for three years to study information security the University of Texas at Dallas. After graduation, I returned to MITRE—this time to the engineering side of the house.

After completing advanced cybersecurity certification through Champlain College in Vermont, I was selected to be task lead for the U.S. Army Regional Cyber Center–Southwest Asia, where I spent three years in defensive cyber operations for our sponsor. Another certification later and I’m in a new role, delivering lightweight security operations center (SOC) assessments in the federal government. Our team helps enterprise SOCs get a sense of where they are and their most critical areas of improvement in their fiscal year modernization efforts.

Forging Connections at MITRE

One unique and wonderful thing about working at MITRE is our support of Business Resource Groups. They exist to bring people together, welcome new employees, foster acceptance, and make connections outside of our individual projects.

For example, multiple BRGs have partnered to support Access Housing Inc. DC , a nonprofit benefiting veterans and their families who are experiencing homelessness. It’s just as important to make connections outside of our own experiences and backgrounds. Stepping outside of our comfort zone is where progress really begins.

I’m also an active member of The Veterans’ Council BRG, and just yesterday I had a chance meeting with a brand-new employee to our MITRE Labs—a retired Army colonel. It was her first time in the building, and her department leader, who is also my softball teammate, was showing her around. The first thing I told her was where to find our community of veterans here.

I said to her, “We’re very welcoming. If you have any questions, we want to hear from you and help you acclimate to being at MITRE. We’re a resource you can look to for support and help build your network and community.”

At MITRE, I’ve found community in many forms—and a shared mission to solve problems for a safer world.

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