Higher Ed Careers for Veterans: IT Risk Assessment

 Marketing Director   May 15, 2023  Career Transitions

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Higher Ed Careers for Veterans - IT Assessment - Ali Abedel-Fattah profile

Are you exploring higher ed careers for veterans? Meet Ali Abdel-Fattah. He currently serves as an IT Governance, Risk, and Compliance leader in higher education. Prior to this position, he held numerous roles internationally from tactical supply chain risk management to information technology engineering in his 13 years with the U.S. Army. During his transition serving as a DOD SkillBridge fellow (Cybersecurity Analyst), he found fulfillment in a meaningful career by aligning his passion for cybersecurity in the higher education sector.

What made you consider a career in higher education?

Higher education aligns with my desire to pursue continued development, professionally and personally. The higher ed environment is dynamic and consistently innovating. This environment has presented new and exciting challenges daily with a comradery that is reminiscent of the military.

Did you run into any specific challenges as a veteran transitioning to higher ed and if so how did you manage it/them?

The greatest challenge I found was the lack of specific opportunities that aligned with my skills. I have found many folks will remain in positions for long periods of time. I overcame this challenge by applying to a different position in the same department and pivoting into my desired role by communicating my desire to my management to stretch into different areas of the University.

Did anything surprise you about working in higher ed that you did not expect? 

The fluidity of policies and processes. Our distributed college model requires quite a bit of flexibility to support the departments.

Tell us about your current role.

I am currently the IT Risk Assessment team lead. This primarily consists of conducting vendor and internal Cyber risk assessments.

What are some of the benefits of working in higher education?

Flexible schedule hours. Hybrid work schedule. Mentors everywhere. A feeling of belonging among my co-workers. Job security.

How do you think being a veteran has served you in this role?

The work ethic and drive that it takes to succeed in the military translate very well in this space. I have found many opportunities to improve, own, and lead process improvements on many fronts. This has ultimately led to my rapid career advancement.

What do you wish you knew before moving into a career in higher education?  

How difficult it was to get your foot in the door.

Did your military experience easily translate into a civilian occupation? If not, did you have to receive additional training and/or certifications?

Yes. This was unique for me though as I was previously a system administrator with many of the required industry certifications that the civilian sector requires in my field.

What similarities are there (if any) between working in higher education and serving in the military?

The feeling of teamwork, comradery, and evolving challenges…all to serve a meaningful purpose that is not just about making money. I have found the private sector to be more cutthroat and likely to exploit and burn you out, as opposed to higher ed.

Check out more resources for veterans exploring careers in higher ed.

About the Author: Sara Ermeti has worked in HR leadership for nearly 30 years in various industries such as higher education, NFP, Religious, Financial, Entertainment, and Transportation. She is also an adjunct professor teaching courses in HR and Business. Sara is a certified coach and resume writer offering individual and business consulting through Esperto HR Office.