Marc Fruchtbaum is not the kind of person who chooses a narrow niche and stays in it. He likes to continually broaden his range of expertise, learning about new areas of interest and mastering the technology and logic associated with them while maintaining a results-oriented perspective.
“Some of the key phrases that I live by are ‘get it done, make it happen,” says Fruchtbaum, who became interested in computers and IT while a middle school student in Los Angeles – and then proceeded to set up his own small company, attracting high-end clients that included movie stars and local businesses.
He brought that philosophy and entrepreneurial spirit with him to Capitol Technology University (earlier known as Capitol College). Together with fellow student Jeremy Hedges, Fruchtbaum was one of the architects of the school’s Cyber Lab, which has become a key foundation for the cybersecurity program.
Founded in 2009 with the help of a BRAC grant, this innovative and pioneering lab provides a venue for students to gain real-life experience in simulating, detecting and combating hacker attacks from a variety of origins. It is exactly this kind of experience that they’ll need when they graduate college and assume key positions in the information security field.
Five years ago, though, it was still just a theoretical concept waiting to become reality.
Under the guidance of Professor Andrew Mehri, Fruchtbaum and Hedges set about making that happen. “We turned a physical space from an empty room with a bunch of old monitors into what it’s currently evolved into,” he says. “We motivated students to engage the concept while partnering with key professors to place academic materials there, creating user and programmatic manuals, operationalizing computers, and obtaining grants.”
In the process, Fruchtbaum had ample opportunity to apply the business and management skills he was developing as a student in the Masters of Information Technology program. “It was a rough ride, but I learned a great deal,” he says. “And it has helped me tremendously in the business environment, especially knowing how to navigate among all the different departments in order to ensure that the concept became a functional reality.”
“Hardest class” ever spurs a change in plans
Fruchtbaum, who says he made up his mind to attend Capitol after seeing engineering professor John Ryan give a demo in the telecom lab, started out in the Management of Information Technology (now Management of Cyber and Information Technology) program. As the Cyber Lab came to fruition, however, he was rethinking his goals, ultimately deciding to integrate that degree with Information Assurance.
A class he took played a critical role in his making that choice.
“Probably the deciding factor for me was taking Professor William Littleton’s IAE 201 [Introduction to Information Assurance Concepts] class. It was very rigorous, probably the hardest class I have ever taken – literally a crash course in IA. And I just fell in love with it. I kept going with the MIT, because I still liked the business and management aspect; I didn’t want to go 100% technology. I wanted not only to know how to secure assets, but why.”
“I like to wear multiple hats,” he says. “I don't just want to remain in one position for the rest of my career and just sit there and grow with it -- I really want to be able to touch a lot of different issues and contribute to an enhanced quality of life for others. And that's essentially what you can do at Capitol with the IA degree and the MIT degree. You have an opportunity to embrace business concepts while engaging and experiencing cyber and information security issues. The overall experience is both comprehensive and visionary.”
Now working in the field as a defense contractor, Fruchtbaum says cybersecurity continues to be one area in the job market where demand for expertise far outstrips supply. With corporations and agencies in the public sector reporting breaches at an alarming pace, the need for cybersecurity professionals has never been more pressing – yet the number of students entering the field remains surprisingly low, despite state and national efforts to promote STEM education.
Capitol, with its smaller size classes and hands-on approach, is better positioned to close the gap than are many “big name” institutions, Fruchtbaum suggests.
“It appears that in most colleges, you sit in your lecture hall and have an occasional lab date, but it's not the same,” he says. “Even today, a lot of information security degrees -- they label them information security or information assurance, but they're computer science with a few security classes thrown in.”
“This gives the student a limited perspective. And I think to really be successful in information security, one has to have engaged every aspect and dimension of the field, because that way you comprehend how everything interconnects. A broad perspective, effective skills and sensitivity to the components and their inter-relationships provide the most effective orientation and engagement in a field that is destined to define human and organizational relationships. Capitol is in a pivotal position to effect change qualitatively for us all.”