National Nuclear Security Administration

A gig with serious byte: managing IT in the Nuclear Security Enterprise

June 15, 2017

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Eric MacEwen, cyber manager for the Kansas City National Security Campus, advises those just starting out in IT, especially those who might be interested in working on Federal systems, to dive into the toughest material early.  “Learn the hard science part of computer science,” he said. “There are no shortcuts."

Eric MacEwen is a dual-duty wrangler. At home, he has to keep track of eight kids, aged 3 to 17. At work, as cyber manager of NNSA’s Kansas City National Security Campus, MacEwen wrangles information technology systems that have equally diverse and demanding needs.

“I enjoy being challenged to stay on the cutting edge of science and technology, and especially seeing the systems used in production environments,” he said.

“From high performance computers that are less than three years old, to weapon testers that are 25 years old, to 3D-printing in manufacturing, to mobile devices gathering nuclear emergency information, all these systems need cyber to enable their mission,” said MacEwen.

Eight years ago, MacEwen worked at the Department of Homeland Security. He conducted cybersecurity there for 13 years. Today, he enjoys the challenges that the national laboratories’ top-level systems pose, especially at Kansas City.

Given the inherent challenges, MacEwen advises those just starting out in IT, especially those who might be interested in working on Federal systems, to dive into the toughest material early.

“Learn the hard science part of computer science,” he said. “There are no shortcuts. Daily interactions with serious computer science is required for the job.”

In the future, MacEwen looks forward to advances in technology to handle big data and machine learning to make computers even smarter.

“NNSA has huge requirements for this technology,” he said. “With systems and threats always changing, getting machine learning online can really help.”

In addition to handling complex machines, MacEwen’s advises users of the technology – the real people behind the work – how to keep everything running at its best.

“Every day our cyber staff face off against the real deal, the best of the best, from around the world,” he said. “If you don’t know the sender or aren’t sure where an email came from, then don’t respond, click on any links, or open attachments.”

MacEwen’s tip for avoiding technology problems at home isn’t far off from his high-performance computing advice: “Always keep your home computer updated and secure.”