The Alumni Speaker Series continued this week with a visit from Class of 2016 graduate Sandra Larson.
The fourth speaker in the series this year, Larson earned a master’s degree in Applied Intelligence at Mercyhurst in 2016, and she is currently the senior director for LookingGlass Cyber Solutions.
Larson spoke on Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Mercy Heritage Room, where she discussed the field of Intelligence Studies and how she ended up in her position, and offered career tips for students interested in the field.
Having graduated from Allegheny College in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies, Larson left college fluent in Spanish, Russian and German.
She had grown up traveling with her family and was looking for a career where her language experiences would be useful to her. Having studied abroad in Ukraine, she had both cyber experience and knowledge of the Russian language. She now tracks hackers, Russian and Ukrainian, as part of her job each day.
Larson’s job title is senior director of intelligence for LookingGlass Cyber Solutions, a commercial cybersecurity agency based out of Virginia. Larson oversees 100 analysts and is focused on company strategy as well as high-end intelligence products.
She acts as a liaison between the analyst and end client, as well as working with most of the three-letter government intelligence agencies and private sector firms. LookingGlass focuses heavily on hacktivists, attacks on corporate networks and drug cartels through mainly open source intelligence collection methods.
“The program here was really fantastic,” Larson said. “They really trained me for the workplace and taught me what you need. They hope to have you ready for the workplace, not learning on the job, and they absolutely achieved that with me.”
Larson is married to another Mercyhurst alum and has four children. She stressed both the importance of a work/life balance and the weight of the name Mercyhurst in the intelligence community.
“One in three people in the intel community has a tie to Mercyhurst. This connection is wonderful, and it is a network that you will need one day,” Larson said.
In addition to the strong degree she earned from Mercyhurst, Larson puts her professional success down to an unpaid internship she took in the cybersecurity field almost 12 years ago that landed her the career she has now with LookingGlass. She stressed to students the importance of school involvement and never being afraid to take an internship without pay.
“I learned to follow up,” Larson said. “When you send an email, start a project, whatever it is, follow up. Going the extra mile goes a long way. See what you can do to improve things. Be present and take initiative. These sorts of things will get you on the radar for the right reasons.”
Larson told students more details about what she does and the importance of cybersecurity in our modern world, as well as details of internships her company is currently offering.
LookingGlass Cyber Solutions is currently recruiting. Moreover, Larson has increased involvement with Mercyhurst planned, including work with the graduate and undergraduate Intelligence programs here.