Kylie Kalinowski, a computer information systems major at Louisiana Tech and prospective member of its Class of 2022, participated as a panelist at a Congressional Round Table event in Washington, D.C. recently that showcased both the Cybersecurity Education and Training Assistance Program (CETAP) and the National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center (NICERC) as a thought leader in K-12 Cybersecurity Education.
“Acting as a panelist at a roundtable forum on Capitol Hill at the age of 19 was an experience I will never forget,” said Kalinowski, a Michigan native who discovered Louisiana Tech by bonding with professors she met at a Cyber Discovery Camp in Michigan. “I’ll be honest with you: at the roundtable, I was extremely nervous. In the days leading up to the discussion, I had rehearsed my contributions to the discussion over and over.”
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) conducts CETAP to develop and distribute cyber, STEM, and computer science curricula to educators across the country to create cyber literacy and career paths. CETAP is run by the NICERC, the academic division of the Cyber Innovation Center (CIC), which focuses on growing and educating the next generation, cyber-literate workforce through K-12 education. A partner of Tech’s, the CIC serves as the lead technical organization for developing and delivering cyber-based classroom curricula and resources to teachers across the country on behalf of DHS.
Kalinowski served on the panel at the roundtable as a student voice.
When she and the other panelists walked into the meeting room in the Capitol building, she was immediately introduced to Louisiana U.S. Congressman Mike Johnson. Seated to her right was Bradford Wilke, Assistant Director of Stakeholder Engagement of the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency at the DHS, and to her left was Tabitha Teel, Director of EduTech, a program in North Dakota that offers training to STEM educators, and also Suzanne Harper, STEM Strategy Lead at Girl Scouts of the USA.
“I felt very out of place being a panelist next to these giants of innovation,” she said. “As I looked into the crowd, I saw plenty of congressmen, congressional staffers, and members of the media.”
Kevin Nolten, Director of Academic Outreach for NICERC, was the moderator.
“Bradford Wilkie told me he hopes Kylie will one day take his job,” Nolten said. “She represented Louisiana Tech so well.”
“I slowly became more confident in my right to be there,” Kalinowski said. “I originally didn’t know why I was invited to give my thoughts on this topic; I was the only person in the room who was still in college. I didn’t have any kind of fancy title, and I hadn’t accomplished anything particularly extraordinary in my young life.
“But as the forum went on, I realized I needed to be there to be a part of the discussion, to speak on behalf of the students in our nation who are pursuing careers in cybersecurity,” she said. “It’s important that we are able to give our opinions on the future of cybersecurity and cyber education and keep lawmakers informed on our perspective as the direct beneficiaries of policies involving cybersecurity education.”
Once she’d decided to pursue a career in cybersecurity, Kalinowski “did a lot of research on the best universities offering such programs,” she said.
“I saw Louisiana Tech University popping up on every list,” she said. “I had kept in contact with a few professors from the camp over the years and flooded them with questions. Finally, I was able to take a tour of Tech in February of my senior year of high school — and I was hooked. I was blown away by how incredible the University was as a whole; not only did they have exceptional academics, but also they had incredible people. They made me feel like I wasn’t just a number — I was family.”
She came to Tech as a computer science major because she “loved all things software development and technology,” she said. She worked for Fenway Group, a software development company in Tech Pointe, for nearly a year. She loved to code but began to notice she had a greater passion for working with people and managing projects so switched to CIS “to bring together both my passions — technology and people,” she said. “I now work as a Strategic Coordinator and Web Developer for BGBO Co., a business consulting company.”
BGBO Co. was founded by Alane Boyd, who earned undergrad degrees from Tech in both construction engineering technology and business management and entrepreneurship. She retired from her successful software development company at 35 and now spends her time pursuing her passion of helping others.
“After I switched my major to CIS, I took my very first business class in Spring 2019,” Kalinowski said. “Our professor had invited Alane Boyd to speak to us about her experiences. The entire time she spoke, I remember thinking, ‘I want to be like her when I grow up.'”
Kalinowski asked Boyd for her email address, lined up a Zoom meeting, and asked her “as many questions as I could think of,” she said. “At the end of our call, she offered me a position working for both BGBO Co. and BurgerFit to learn more about how to create a successful business.”
The business is based out of Cookeville, Tennessee, so Kalinowski works remotely anywhere there’s an internet connection. “So I either work from Tolliver or home,” she said.
Kalinowski’s career plans right now are to work in management for the DHS or, like Boyd, to work in the private sector as the CIO of a successful business.