Dr. Phoenix Mourning-Star received a Master’s in International Affairs from the Elliott School of International Affairs in 2015 specializing in Science and Technology Policy. He is a scientist for the Marine Corps’ Operational Test Activity, whose primary work is in the development of cyber methodologies for testing the cyber resilience of systems in the DoD acquisitions pipeline that does or can connect to information systems. He and a few students in his ESIA class observed the challenge of careers and job searching and so embarked on starting their own consulting company, Results International Research & Consulting – which Phoenix still oversees. One of his favorite projects that the company still operates is a college/university student professional development and networking training program because it keeps him in touch with the challenges and aspirations of current students who are truly the future of our innovative society.
Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?
I am currently working as a scientist for the Marine Corps’ Operational Test Activity. My primary work is in the development of methodologies for testing the cyber resilience of systems in the DoD acquisitions pipeline that does or can connect to information systems. This work is intended to ensure the warfighter on the battlefield has systems at their disposal that are robust to unauthorized infiltration by adversaries as well as insider threats – recently the unit he co-leads was the first to construct and lead a quantitative cyber tabletop exercise on a DoD system in the acquisitions pipeline!
What was your experience with the job search post-graduation? Can you provide any wisdom for students who will start their job search?
My job search was unique as I came to the Elliott School’s ISTP MA program while completing my Ph.D. dissertation in Ecology with Chemical/Biological Engineering at another institution. I found that searching for jobs in DC was much more reliant on networking and ‘hearing about’ opportunities than it was sitting at a computer submitting endless resumes and applications into the void.
In my opinion, the competition is so fierce in this area – Arlington and Alexandra having recently been voted in the top 10 smartest U.S. cities – that applicants really need to be in the right place at the right time (and in the right people’s sphere).
What do you wish other people knew about your organization?
It isn’t all about kicking down doors and blowing up the wrong targets as seen on the news. I came from a completely humanitarian and environmental sciences background (epidemiology, vaccine testing, renewable energy, human rights law), so working in the DoD and especially at the service level is extremely different from any other office, lab or academic setting. Culture shock is an understatement. That said, being on the front lines of supporting national security by testing the tools our warfighters use is also about making sure the intended targets are hit, rather than the creating collateral damage is a huge part of what I bring to the table and take home.
If you could be any animal, what would you be?
A Phoenix – obviously
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