Rock Your Career: Ryan DeNardo, MPA '21

Ryan DeNardo

Ryan DeNardo, MPA '21 will be joining Deloitte’s Risk and Financial Advisory practice in August as a Cyber Analyst focused on helping government and public sector clients implement security programs and capabilities.

What was one of the most meaningful experiences you had during your time in the MPA program?

During my time at Rockefeller, I had the opportunity to take two great cybersecurity courses from Professor [Stacey] Wright that provided me with an in-depth understanding of key cybersecurity concepts, stakeholders, decision-making models, best practices, and industry standards. These two courses really sparked my interest and solidified my decision to seek a career in the cybersecurity field. While the courses provided me with a good foundation of “academic” knowledge, they also provided me the opportunity to apply these skills through table-top exercises and the semester-long process of writing a professional intelligence report.

I regularly find myself applying what I have learned from these courses to tasks in my current role and suspect that I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Professor Wright puts a lot of thought and time into her courses, and I would highly recommend that anyone interested in the cybersecurity field should try to take at least one of her classes – they were the highlight of my time at Rockefeller and helped me land a full-time job in the field.

Where did you complete your internship requirement and what knowledge, skills and abilities did you develop as a result of this experience? 

I had the opportunity to work with the Data Governance unit at the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) full-time during the summer and winter sessions and part-time during the spring and fall sessions. This internship was an invaluable learning experience and I credit a large part of my success in landing a full-time position to the knowledge I gained at the authority. Due to my job function at NYSERDA, I regularly worked with legal, IT, directors, program staff, and the C-suite to accomplish tasks — this allowed me to develop a deep understanding of how many different stakeholders interact and collaborate to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data.

My supervisors did a fantastic job assigning me a variety of tasks that directly related to my interests and degree program. For example, a large portion of my work revolved around spearheading information security audits on third-party platforms to ensure the applications were safe for use by NYSERDA employees. I also assisted with the development of a new data classification and security controls policy, which allowed me to apply knowledge that I learned during my time at Rockefeller. In addition, I’ve developed, classified, and cleaned large energy-related datasets, metadata, and data dictionary files prior to being published on Open NY — a publicly available platform designed to share government data with key stakeholders. This process allowed me to utilize and further develop the data-related skills I was first exposed to at Rockefeller.  

What specific skills or experiences through the program have prepared you for your transition to post-graduate employment?

I think the foundational public administration concepts that Rockefeller’s core courses taught me have been very helpful in preparing for my transition to post-graduate employment. These are broader fields and concepts such as economics, finance, stakeholder analysis, cost/benefit analysis, decision-making, and how to analyze/interpret data. Learning these fields and concepts taught me how to think about problems and all of the externalities associated with a particular decision. I think these are crucial building blocks that are required to not only land a job but to thrive in any public or private sector position. In addition, as noted above, the cybersecurity concepts and theories that I’ve learned while taking my concentration-specific courses have prepared me well for a professional cybersecurity role. Lastly, my time management skills greatly improved as a result of balancing a full-time graduate course load with a graduate assistantship and an internship. Being able to organize my schedule in a way that allocated a sufficient amount of time for each of my priorities was a challenge at first, but as I progressed through my graduate career, I became more efficient with my time and learned how to effectively balance competing priorities without having to sacrifice the quality of my work.   

Where are you currently employed and what is the focus of your position? 

I will be joining Deloitte’s Risk and Financial Advisory practice in August as a Cyber Analyst focused on helping government and public sector clients implement security programs and capabilities so they can better manage cyber risk. Upon graduation, NYSERDA transitioned me from an intern to a contractor and I will continue working with the Data Governance until I start at Deloitte.

What advice do you have for students who are considering employment in the public sector and pursuing an MPA degree?

Be open to exploring new fields and diving into subjects or tasks you may not be as comfortable with. I entered the MPA program with no prior knowledge of finance or economics and after taking a few courses on the subjects, I switched my second concentration to public economics and finance. I saw the real-world applicability of these subjects and was intrigued by how much of our everyday lives was impacted by the market and financial resources.

I also think it is very important to be someone that others can rely on — people will remember if you go the extra mile on a group project or if you take on a task that is out of your comfort zone. You are likely to come across this same person multiple times throughout your career and they will remember how you presented yourself, even if it was a minor interaction. With this being said, it’s important to always present the best version of yourself and prove to others that you are dependable and trustworthy.

Although I always found networking to feel a bit awkward and ingenuine, it really is an important element of having a successful experience while at Rockefeller and after you graduate. For the most part, people love talking about their jobs and are happy to help out students who are interested in learning more about their profession. You have to find a networking style that works best and feels the most natural for you — trying to force networking on someone can often times result in undesired outcomes. I think the best way to go about it is to be genuinely interested in what the other person has to say. If they can tell you are truly interested in listening and learning, they will be more likely to spend time speaking with you or assisting you with whatever you may need. If you can help out the person you are talking to in any way, that is a huge plus — networking works both ways.