From Crawford to Cambridge

26 August 2015

When Nathan Ryan arrived in Canberra to study at ANU after completing his undergraduate degree, he soon learned that cybersecurity was more than just passwords on a laptop, but involved the high politics of nation-states.

Less than three years later, after obtaining the Master of National Security Policy (Advanced) from the National Security College (NSC), Nathan is heading off to the RAND Corporation - one of the world’s pre-eminent think tanks - to take up a post in the United Kingdom as an Associate Analyst in Cyber Policy.

Along the way he encountered and seized opportunities in research, teaching and overseas study that he never imagined when first shopping around for a Master’s degree.

“I majored in philosophy and the history and philosophy of science,” said Nathan.

“I also enjoyed studying political economy, so I was looking for something that would take me from theory into practice that threads it all together and that’s when national security came up.”

“What clinched it for me was the calibre of academics at the National Security College. I quickly realised that this wasn’t just a day job for the people who worked in this space.”

“When you’re in Canberra and surrounded by Government and all the security agencies – people live and breathe it and it gives the impression of getting a seat at the ‘big boys’ table’ – serious people doing serious things and that this was going to be a career - I wasn’t disappointed.”

Professor Rodger Bradbury, head of the NSC cyberspace research program, convinced Nathan to upgrade to the Advanced Master’s program and take on the challenge of a 15,000 word sub-thesis.

Nathan also secured a part-time Research Assistant position in the program, where he put together an ontology of cyberspace while working on his sub-thesis.

“I took an interdisciplinary approach in an attempt to break new ground at the juncture between complexity science, philosophy and cyber security,” said Nathan.

“I analysed how states use cyber power both inside the environment of cyberspace, which alters the local cyber ecology, and outside the environment by manipulating events, processes or information to obtain preferred outcomes.”

Recently he won a scholarship for an intensive complex systems course delivered at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has been tutoring in NSC’s new Statecraft and National Security in Cyberspace course.

Nathan is now looking forward to putting the skills he acquired at NSC to practical use, representing RAND at various forums, providing strategic advice to governments and clients, and advocating for rigorous policy development in the cyber field.

“The biggest challenge in cyber is getting the technical and policy parts to work together,” he said.

“It’s the multidisciplinary approach to public policy making that I learned here that will help me tackle the wicked problems it throws up.”

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