Christina Cosgrove

Chief of Staff, Rhode Island Cybersecurity Advisor, State of Rhode Island

About Christina

What are your favorite hobbies or activities you do for fun?
My favorite hobbies are interior design, crafting, gardening and beach cruising.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I would call myself an amateur pianist.

Do you play any sports or do any athletic activities?
These days, I love to beach cruise. When I was a kid, I played soccer, basketball, and softball. As I got older, I realized those were not the activities for me. In middle school, after years of ballet as a small child, I took up Irish Step. It was the right activity for me! I would love to take classes again.

What is your favorite non-science book, magazine, or blog?
My favorite non-science book is Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. I also follow the blogs of Jillian Harris and Ali Fedotowsky; major fashion and design inspiration!

What’s your favorite song or band?My favorite singer is Adele.

I love music, but currently, my favorite song is Despacito. I would like to learn Spanish!

Who do you look up to and admire?
My older sister, Amanda.

What is the highest degree you’ve attained
A Master’s Degree.

What future degree(s) are you planning on pursuing, if any
I would like to pursue certifications, such as Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) and Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC).

What schools did you attend
High School: Boston Latin Academy – Boston, MA
Undergrad: Salve Regina University – Newport, RI
Graduate: Salve Regina University – Newport, RI

What were your favorite subjects in school?
History, Writing, and Biology.

What educational accomplishments are you most proud of?
Attaining my Master’s Degree.

What kinds of challenges did you overcome during your education?
During college, I overcame the loss of a parent. It was an extremely difficult time for me, but it truly gave me the motivation to never give up. I ended up studying aboard in Florence, Italy the following semester and did the best soul searching of my life. Things finally began to fall into place.

Who is your current employer?
State of Rhode Island

What is your official job title?
Chief of Staff

What would you describe as your “layman’s” title?
Superstar

How many years have you worked in this organization/position?
I have been in my current position for 4 months, with an additional 3 years in state government prior to my current role.

What does your organization do?
My organization is responsible for advising state and local government on all things cybersecurity (i.e. budget, training, cyber hygiene, policy, system security, etc.). We also have the role of advising the state on homeland security matters, as my boss leads the effort as the State’s Homeland Security Advisor.

What is your role in the organization?
I assist the State’s Cybersecurity Officer and Homeland Security Advisor on all day-to-day duties, manage programs and projects, oversee our organizations budget, advise on policy and politics relevant to our organization, etc.

Describe your work environment
My work environment is a high-pace, office setting.

What tools and/or techniques do you use in your job?
Technical writing, organization and time management skills, customer service, attention to detail, hardware/software proficiency.

Describe a typical day in your job
A typical day at work includes a morning brief with my boss, emails, meetings, reports and more meetings.

How is the work you do important to society?
The work I do is important for society because I am working to improve the State’s cybersecurity posture. By making the improvements that my organization is making, we are not only making the State more resilient, but we are creating an ecosystem that companies want to be a part of. This grows the economy and creates jobs to help the citizens of Rhode Island secure a job in a field that is booming!

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your current role?
I am proud of myself every day I walk out of the office. As my organization is new, having just been created a few short months ago, everything we do achieves the goals we have set for ourselves.

What projects or goals are you currently pursuing?
The goals I am currently pursuing relate to securing the Executive Branch, developing a baseline risk assessment for the State, implementing cybersecurity training for all State employees, taking actions to update legislature to bring it into the digital age, implementing a quick look assessment to provide the Executive Branch of state government with a “current state” report, drafting cybersecurity and homeland security strategies, etc.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?
The biggest challenges I face at work are the pace of state government and budgetary/procurement restrictions.

What is the most exciting, most amazing, or scariest thing that has happened to you during your work?
The most exciting/amazing thing that has happened to me at work was definitely the day the State launched the Cyber Range Program. It was an important event that the Governor, state reps, government, etc. attended. While the Director was thanking people for attending, he thanked me for the amazing work I had done for the program, as the project manager. Everyone clapped and I was extremely embarrassed, yet flattered!

Nothing scary has happened to me…yet!

What previous employers and positions that led to your current role?
Raytheon – Cyber Intelligence Intern/SENEDIA Intern
Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency – Cybersecurity Intern/SENEDIA Intern
Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency – Cybersecurity Coordinator

What is/was the best job you’ve ever had and why?
The best job I have ever had is my current job. Working as the Chief of Staff for the State Cybersecurity Officer has been an amazing opportunity!

What was the worst job you’ve ever had and why?
The worst job I have ever had was my very first job, working at a grocery store. Always thank your cashier and bagger!

What were you like as a kid?
Shy around people I didn’t know, but outgoing around those I did.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up at age 12? At age 15? At age 18?
At age 12 I wanted to be Doctor. At ages 15 and 18 I wanted to be a lawyer.

When did you know you wanted to pursue your current career, and what drove you towards it?
The idea for my career didn’t come until my senior year of college when I was enrolled in the Graduate program at Salve Regina University. I was approaching graduation and began thinking about what I was going to focus on while in Grad School. That is when I discovered the Cybersecurity and Intelligence courses offered at Salve Regina University. It was a program that peaked my interest, even if I didn’t necessarily have the prior technical experience. When in doubt, go for it!

Who inspired you on this path?
Once I was in the Cybersecurity and Intelligence Graduate program, I scored an internship through SENEDIA at Raytheon. My internship supervisor/mentor Ken Bell really inspired me to pursue my career path. Shout out to SENEDIA and Ken Bell.

What did you believe about this career before entering into it that proved to be different once you were in it?
What I believed about my career is that I would be that I would be in a dark room on a computer doing “tech” things. It turns out, cybersecurity has many different facets. I am in the executive/policy/government cybersecurity career.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what other career(s) might you have pursued?
If I weren’t doing what I do now, I believe I would be working in the federal government with a career in foreign affairs… or as an interior designer.

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your career?
The advice I would give a student interested in pursuing my career is to achieve a Master’s degree. In state government, a master’s degree is highly sought after!

Start pursuing certifications, such as CompTIA Security +, in college! They are golden tickets into the cyber field!

What advice would you give students in general?
The advice I would give students, in general, is to never give up. If you have it in your mind to get that degree, get that degree. If you want to score that internship, do everything you can to get that internship. Be the best version of yourself, remain confident and know that if you set your mind to it, it will happen!

What are some interesting places you’ve traveled? (Can be career-related or personal.)
I traveled to Michigan for work, which was a very interesting experience.

Places I have traveled to during my semester abroad include Italy, Switzerland, Spain, and Ireland.

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