CLASS OF 2009: JAN BUITRON ✯ TRAILBLAZER

Latest news: Congratulations to Jan Buitron for winning the (ISC)² 2017 Women’s Information Security Scholarship!

Jan Buitron M’09 wants to transform the world of work for women in information technology, and by all objective measures, she’s succeeding—by blazing a trail for the next generation of female cyber-professionals.

Jan Buitron M’09 (left), with then-MSIA Program Director Mich Kabay, at an event on campus in 2009. Kabay has recently returned to teaching in Norwich’s School of Business Management. (Photo courtesy of Jan Buitron M’09.)

Jan Buitron M’09 (left), with then-MSIA Program Director Mich Kabay, at an event on campus in 2009. Kabay has recently returned to teaching in Norwich’s School of Business Management. (Photo courtesy of Jan Buitron M’09.)

Now a doctoral candidate in information assurance at Colorado Technical University, the vibrant Buitron has made it a practice to choose the road less traveled. In the late 1990s, while pursuing her undergraduate degree in computer-information systems at Regis University, she launched her career at IBM. Starting as a help desk technician, she quickly advanced through the ranks to a security analyst position in the nascent Managed Security Services Division. She eventually moved on from IBM, but returned in 2007 for a year as a contracted senior security specialist. Since earning her master’s from Norwich, Buitron has worked for several government agencies and the Department of Defense.

Jan got into the IT profession during a transition point, ironically, when it was moving away from its roots as a field inclusive to women. “It was interesting to observe,” she reflects. “Technology-related jobs were considered ‘office work’; they didn’t require brawn. When I started, it seemed that business leadership better appreciated the contributions women could make to the field. But somehow that changed. The cultural barriers for women interested in IT have become legion, and hard to overcome.”

Yet none of this deterred Jan, who considers persistence one of her core competencies. “I was in love with my work, and fascinated with the emerging discipline of information security,” she recalls. “I already knew I wanted a master’s degree; why not in something I was passionate about, and that could advance my career?” Thus, she landed at Norwich as a candidate in the Master of Science in Information Assurance (MSIA) program.

Established under the leadership of Professor Mich Kabay, the relatively young program had already helped Norwich earn designation as a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance from the National Security Agency by the time Jan enrolled. “I wanted the best,” says Jan. Yet not surprisingly, she immediately challenged one of the program’s core tenets.

Up until Jan’s arrival, all MSIA candidates were required to conduct a case study on an organization to fulfill their degrees. “Jan hadn’t drunk that Kool-Aid,” laughs Kabay. “Instead, she proposed analyzing an entire vertical industry [the U.S. Government]. She was so convincing that not only was she the first MSIA candidate to undertake such a bold departure, but also she persuaded us to offer the same opportunity to every student who followed. It’s no accident that Jan was the valedictorian of her class,” Kabay concludes.

In recognition of her doctoral research, she recently won a prestigious scholarship from the (ISC)2 Foundation—an organization dedicated to fostering expertise in cybersecurity, especially among women. She serves as adjunct faculty for Regis University’s MSIA program and has earned an impressive list of technology certifications. She has worked in almost every functional domain of information assurance, including those requiring high-security clearance.

And, she remains a tireless advocate for other women in IT. Though just 10 percent of the field comprises women, Jan believes the moment is ripe for transformation. She is also clear with her advice: “Get a master’s degree at Norwich!” – Jane Dunbar

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