“The work is challenging—cyber is a real cat and mouse game where your primary goal is to ensure you’re one step ahead of the attackers.” – Ebrima, Principal Scientist, Cyber & Data Mining
Meet Ebrima, a cybersecurity expert with a career that has spanned the private sector, academia, and the U.S. Intelligence Community. At Noblis, Ebrima leads the Cyber Center of Excellence (CoE), which brings together experts from across the organization to collaborate and knowledge share on key cyber challenges and innovations— read below to learn more!
What is your background and what do you enjoy about working in cyber?
Ebrima started supporting the national security mission after years working in the private sector for various technology companies and academic institutions on the west coast. Since his career pivot, he has contributed to the development and implementation of major national cybersecurity initiatives on behalf of the U.S. Intelligence Community, including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. He joined the Cyber and Data Mining area at Noblis in 2017 as a Principal Scientist and is responsible for project management of Noblis’ cyber programs, as well as nurturing research and development in support of those programs.
“The work is challenging—cyber is a real cat and mouse game where your primary goal is to ensure you’re one step ahead of the attackers,” said Ebrima.
What is your favorite part about your job and about working at Noblis?
“With our government customers, we are working together to defend the nation. It’s crucial work that’s very fulfilling,” said Ebrima.
Beyond passion for the mission, Ebrima also shared that the opportunity to constantly learn as he and his teams adapt to cyber challenges is a key part of why he loves his job. “Learning is critical if you’re going to contribute to making the world a better place,” he said.
How have the CoE’s enriched your career at Noblis, and what has been your biggest accomplishment?
As the Cyber Center of Excellence lead at Noblis, Ebrima is responsible for bringing Cyber experts from across the organization together to create innovative solutions for clients. His biggest goal of the CoE has been to break down the walls and help professionals see the full range of capabilities of Noblis as a whole.
“My biggest accomplishment has been launching trainings and giving resources to our employees,” said Ebrima. “We are creating more chances to go after contracts and assessing the skills of our employees to benchmark areas to improve. We sent out a survey and were able to see what capabilities are strong at Noblis, as well as what we need to work on. From this, we have created targeted training so that our employees can receive continued education in the areas crucial to their development.”
What do you think gives Noblis an edge in the industry, as it relates to the field of Cybersecurity?
Ebrima sees Noblis as a great place to work in Cyber because of the opportunities for individuals to come together and collaborate. He thinks that the workplace culture at Noblis allows for greater opportunities because of open communication channels, such as the CoEs.
“Noblis brings people together. Communication is so important to realize capabilities and to perform best as an organization,” shared Ebrima. “When our employees are brought together and can communicate freely, we are able to establish more depth in our skills, even though we are a smaller organization.”
Can you name a challenge you thought you were never going to solve, and then did?
Ebrima explained that he lives by the Muhammad Ali quote, “Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion.” This statement drives him because Cybersecurity is made up of continuous problems that need to be examined carefully, but ideally, can be solved.
“With Cybersecurity, you can work to uncover what’s going on behind encryption without going in by leveraging externalities,” said Ebrima. “Sometimes, the collective voice is missing, so calling on other experts can be helpful to get new ideas to come to a conclusion.”
Something Ebrima also considers when trying to solve a tough problem is that a person is behind every system. He explained that iterations of the same problem have been solved before, so experts should keep that in mind and find the new way to solve the same problem.
“Diversity is required to solve complex problems,” said Ebrima. “Humans are behind all systems, so with that in mind, I can know that I am capable of figuring out a problem. With Cyber, the aim is to stop the bad guys and keep ahead of the game.”
Ebrima currently serves as a Principal Scientist in the area of Cyber & Data Mining, responsible for researching security threats and learning from cyber environments, as well as creating adaptive systems. He currently serves as an Adjunct Professor at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics and a M.S. in Computer Science from California State University, Chico, and a diploma in Business Development and Entrepreneurial Management and a PhD in Computer Science with an emphasis on security and applied machine learning from the University of California, Davis.