From Compliance to Cybersecurity, Ian Sharping EMCS ’18

A lawyer, compliance professional and cybersecurity expert walk into a bar… and it’s one person.

You might have been expecting a joke but Ian Sharping’s career ambitions are no laughing matter.  Trained as a lawyer, Sharping is the City Colleges of Chicago district manager of accreditation and compliance. We recently caught up with him to find out why he’s expanding his career into cybersecurity and to take his pulse on Brown’s Executive Master in Cybersecurity (EMCS) nine months into the program.

What sparked your interest in cybersecurity?

My interest in cybersecurity started with a business mentor of mine.  He noticed that I was doing compliance work and suggested that I branch into cybersecurity to get in on the ground floor of this high-growth sector. 

He told me, ‘You’re already familiar with regulations, laws… Why don’t you look into it.’ So I did.

I discovered that cybersecurity was as much a legal as a technical challenge. Having practiced as a civil rights attorney, taught constitutional law, and overseen privacy compliance for Chicago City Colleges, I began to realize that I was a valuable asset to this new burgeoning field.

Why did you choose EMCS?

It isn’t obvious how to move into cybersecurity.  If you’re a techie you can certificate-hop. But if you’re not, what do you do?  

EMCS provided an excellent solution. The program’s rigorous curriculum reflects the multifaceted nature of cybersecurity.

 Together, my cohort brings different strengths to the program. By working together and leveraging our individual areas of expertise in policy, industry or tech, we are able to meet the truly multi-dimensional nature of cybersecurity.

The experience gives us the skills to engage intelligently across silos which is what you need to do to lead in this field.

What has surprised you about the program?

In an Ivy League program, you expect to learn from the faculty. But I’m amazed by how much value I get from my cohort members’ motivational level, collaborative spirit and rich professional networks.

Can you offer an example?

In the course, Human Factors in Computer Science and Privacy, a number of us were struggling with an assignment based on the book, Threat Modeling: Designing for Security by Adam Shostack.  

One of the students knew the author and offered to setup a call for us.  Sure enough, he got the author on the phone and he answered all our questions.  It was ridiculously cool. 

This speaks to the type of classmates that I have and their willingness to share their knowledge and resources.  In law school, the same student would have called the guy, gotten all the info and turned in the best paper.  We were able to team up together to tackle overcome obstacles. I can’t say enough about my cohort and how we’ve come together as a group.

How has EMCS immediately impacted your career?

EMCS gives you a seat at the table and immediate credibility. I recently participated as a panelist at an Illinois Bar Association meeting to talk to a non-technical audience about making their businesses more secure.

The president of the association was in the audience and later asked me to chair a new cybersecurity committee, the first of its kind in our state.  These are the kinds of doors this program opens.

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