Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian McKeon (center) meets with Directorate of Cyber and Technology Security (CTS) Deputy Assistant Secretary Gharun Lacy (second from left) and CTS U.S. Digital Corps Fellows (flanking McKeon) at the Harry S Truman Building in Washington. Photo by Ronny Przysucha
By Fiona Gettinger and Rose Montgomery
Gharun Lacy was pursuing a mechanical engineering degree at Howard University when a security engineering officer (SEO) with the Department of State stopped him in a hallway on campus to ask if he had ever considered living and working overseas. Until that moment, he had not. Intrigued, he took the opportunity to interview for a job a few days later and was offered a position on the spot. Both the SEO and his interviewer became mentors and friends over the next 22 years of Lacy’s career.
Today, Lacy is a Senior Foreign Service SEO and the deputy assistant secretary (DAS) for the Directorate of Cyber and Technology Security (CTS) under the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS). In his position at CTS, and throughout posts in Iraq, Colombia, Belgium, Brazil, and Nigeria, Lacy has placed a premium on reaching a diverse talent base to ensure the Department has the brightest minds to take on any challenge.
Cybersecurity is a rapidly evolving field and the Department is a primary target for cyber threat actors worldwide. Lacy said he believes that diversity of thought is imperative to having cyber professionals on staff “who can find the solution to any problem, any attack vector, any threat that an adversary can throw at us.”
Following in his mentors’ footsteps, Lacy strives to lead by example by fostering talent and developing a supervisory culture where those in leadership positions are continuously training others to take their place. Lacy noted that some of the best mentors he’s had at the Department have been team members he supervised.
“We all work together for the same mission, and when you have that mentality, mentors can come from any direction,” he said.
Lacy’s journey from college recruit to DAS exemplifies the type of cybersecurity talent pipeline that he aims to cultivate within his directorate. He has prioritized DS participation in programs designed to equip students and early-career professionals with the mentorship, tools, and experience they need to contribute to the future of cybersecurity at the Department and other government organizations. Among these partnerships is the U.S. Digital Corps, a two-year fellowship for technologists at government agencies. Two fellows from the inaugural 2022 cohort of the Digital Corps have joined the CTS Office of Technology Innovation and Engineering (TIE), evaluating emerging technologies to ensure American diplomats have the secure tools they need to serve U.S. interests and implement foreign policy.
Launched in August 2021 by President Biden, the U.S. Digital Corps fellowship was established to increase the ranks of early-career technology talent in the federal government. “Careers are much more fluid than they used to be, and we need to be continuously bringing in new, diverse talent as well as offering robust diversity, equity, and inclusion programs to retain talent. We need to prioritize diversity of thought and scout for talent not just from within the federal sphere but also those who haven’t been influenced by time in the federal space,” said Lacy.
Looking ahead to Spring 2023, DS will participate in Hacking for Diplomacy, a graduate program course that provides students with the opportunity to work with the Department to address pressing foreign policy challenges. This semester-long course provides a platform for student teams to develop prototypes that match Department users’ needs, including those related to the CTS cybersecurity mission. In addition to the benefits of rapid solution development, engaging universities gives CTS exposure to diverse student talent with career interests in working with DS.
“There’s no substitution for being on the ground, recruiting at schools, going where the talent is and talking face to face with students,” said Lacy.
Fiona Gettinger is the senior communications coordinator for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Directorate of Cyber and Technology Security. Rose Montgomery is the senior communications specialist and cybersecurity awareness team lead for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Directorate of Cyber and Technology Security.