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Two Careers, One Skillset: My Journey From Service To Cybersecurity

GM employee in military uniform (1)

This Military Appreciation Month, learn how one GM employee’s military career took him to Afghanistan, Atlanta and beyond ... 

My military journey started when I enlisted in the U.S. National Guard right out of high school. Like most kids from my small farming community in South Georgia, I felt I had limited career and education opportunities — little did I know this step would change the course of my life. 

My name is Garrett, and I’m a senior cybersecurity analyst at GM, proud former National Guardsman, and member of the GM Veterans ERG. 

After completing my military training, I attended Georgia Southern University for my undergraduate studies, thinking I would remain on U.S. soil, at least for a while. In the middle of my education in 2013, I was deployed to Afghanistan and ended up in the Helmand province before shifting to Kabul. 

My role was highly specialized. When my group landed in a new region, we needed secure voice and data communications set up within 24 hours. I managed communications for a small team, but I also supported larger teams with radios, satellite comms and other kits and tools needed to establish remote, secure networks. 

I was young at just 21-years-old at the time, but I was the only person at my remote station doing what I was doing.  There was an enormous amount of pressure knowing I was the one person responsible for connecting my team to the rest of our troops in the region. Without communications, we were sitting ducks. 

In 2014, my deployment ended and I was shipped back home. At first, I had trouble reacclimating to civilian life; I had so much responsibility in the military, and every action I made was vital to my team. It was incredibly jarring to come back to the U.S. and feel like nothing I did mattered. 

I knew I had to re-evaluate my priorities to find out what I wanted to do from this point in my life, and I was fortunate enough to have an amazing support network. I resumed my education and completed my undergraduate degree at Georgia Southern, and then the next chapter of my life unfolded: GM recruited me right after graduation. I relocated to Atlanta to work in the IT Innovation Center for a career in enterprise cybersecurity. 

Thanks to my service, I came in not only with a degree, but also with certifications, a government clearance and IT expertise. I was a new college hire when I joined GM among others who were civilians, but I also had different skills from my hands-on military communications experience. I wanted to continue my education, so I worked with utilized GM’s tuition assistance program and the Technical Education Program to achieve master’s degrees in digital forensics and information security from the University of Central Florida and Carnegie Mellon University, respectively. 

For my first three years, I worked as a cybersecurity forensic analyst identifying and mitigating inside threats, preserving GM’s intellectual property, and protecting digital assets. Now, my role is in cybersecurity governance risk and compliance, where I help GM proactively identify security concerns. 

I’m also the vice president of the Roswell, Georgia, chapter of Veterans ERG, where we do local outreach, veterans-focused events in the community and work with the guide dog foundation.  

My time in the National Guard provided the experience and skills that led to my current success. Military service, along with my amazing spouse and my GM family, helped get me to where I am today and rediscover what matters. May is Military Appreciation Month, a time to celebrate the culture and history of military service members across the globe and within our workforce. 

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