Published: March 31, 2020
Irena Stevens

Irena Stevens is a PhD student in the TCP program. She currently works with the National Institute of Standards and Technology as a National Advanced Spectrum and Communications Testing PREP Program Associate. Irena has also been nominated for a PhD fellowship for this coming summer. Recently, TCP had a chance to sit down with Irena and discuss her experience with the career and academic field.

What made you choose the TCP program?
When I applied to the Interdisciplinary Telecom Program (before rebranding as TCP), it was the only comprehensive telecommunications-oriented program in the country that would extend my expertise in telecom policy with complementary knowledge of engineering, economics, and business. Through working in the field prior to joining the program, I recognized the value of thoroughly understanding all of these aspects in promoting the deployment of next generation communications technology. 

What has your career experience been like?
As a policy professional, my career has generally been in public institutions on the federal, state, and local levels. With my focus on telecom, this experience spans policy research for federal organizations such as the Federal Communications Commission and the Congressional Research Service to project implementation for local utilities working with wireless carriers to deploy broadband. My future direction will focus more directly on practical wireless deployment projects.

If you could talk to a woman considering a career in cybersecurity, what would you tell her?
As someone working to facilitate the deployment of networks, their utility is dependent on the inherent trust that their use does not produce unintended consequences. Since we have learned that cybersecurity should be built in from the beginning rather than added as an afterthought, it has become an essential ingredient in building valued and reliable networks. Women, as a demographic, have gained unprecedented independence and self-efficacy from the ability to speak out and express themselves online. Facilitating this medium as a safe and dependable space benefits women’s ability to gain knowledge, skills, and support, as well as to expand the variety of women’s lifestyle options and career opportunities. 

How has your experience in the TCP program affected you and your career path?
The program enabled me to expand my policy knowledge into other fields necessary to progress my career. My perspective of the industry is now is more contextually comprehensive. I am better capable to undertake different kinds of roles and accept a wider scope of potential opportunities and career paths. 

Could you speak about what it was like to be nominated for a fellowship for the upcoming summer?
The fellowship I received for this summer provides funding for PhD students to complete their dissertation. I am fortunate to receive it at this time because my dissertation topic tracks a number of undergoing developments in federal wireless policy. It enables me to complete my dissertation in concurrence with these federal efforts and better contribute to the future direction of wireless deployment. 

Irena Stevens is a stellar student in the TCP program and her experience in the career field is extensive and impressive. You can learn more about Irena on her LinkedIn page.