Carnegie Mellon University

Kellen Carleton CMU IPS

March 24, 2020

Cybersecurity consulting with Kellen Carleton

By Bill Brink

As Kellen Carleton began his junior year at Carnegie Mellon, he thought he had his career figured out. Two summers before, he interned with Octagon, one of the world’s largest sports agencies. The summer after that, Carleton, a lifelong hockey player and Pittsburgh sports fan, interned with the Penguins during a playoff run that resulted in the first of two consecutive Stanley Cups.

Sports management seemed to be the likely path for Carleton until the following spring, when he participated in the Washington Semester Program. He interned with Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey. He attended Donald Trump’s inauguration.

“It was an absolutely transformational semester in my college experience,” Carleton said. “It’s made all the difference, it really has.”

Carleton graduated in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Policy and Management and a minor in Politics and Public Policy. Two years later, he earned a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon’s International Relations and Politics program. He now works as a security consulting analyst with Accenture, serving a large financial services firm.

“It definitely took me a long time to find this job that I’m doing now,” he said. “Accenture just started a security practice where they’re focusing specifically on cybersecurity in the private sector, a whole arm of their consulting wing just focusing on these kinds of issues and these kinds of projects.”

Government and policy had always interested Carleton, and exploration of possible avenues of study when he got to Carnegie Mellon further solidified it. At first, he said, he wasn’t sure he was getting what he wanted out of his Policy and Management major. The Washington Semester Program changed that.

“The professors we had in DC were absolutely incredible,” Carleton said. “They had their own wealth of experience that they told us as a student group and allowed us to pick their brains about a lot of things. That was a pretty important semester in my whole college career, I would say.”

Washington Semester Program fellow Fred Crawford stood out to Carleton. From Crawford’s policy class, Carleton learned to read long, convoluted pieces of legislation and understand them, something he still uses today. The beginning of his internship with Toomey coincided with that of the Trump administration, a busy time for everyone in Washington but especially for a senator charged with confirming nominees to federal appointments.

“He’s not always on the fence about things, but he is enough that people are interested in how he’s going to vote on things, whether he’ll go a certain way,” Carleton said. “Just to have all these things happening and with a Republican Senate and President, I think they all kind of knew … they were going to have a chance to push a lot of things through.”

Enjoying his studies and wanted to keep the train rolling, Carleton enrolled in the Master of Science in International Relations and Politics program. It was during this time that Carleton interned with the CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) Division of Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute while working on his thesis, which centered on the cybersecurity policy that governs defense contractors.

“How cybersecurity policy governs, what kind of information they have to share with the public, how much information-sharing they have to do amongst themselves, company to company,” Carleton said. “And also how much information they have to share with the government and [Department of Defense]. It was interesting to see what policy mandates that kind of stuff, how they interact with it and really how they shape their businesses day to day around that.”

While researching his thesis, Carleton interviewed cybersecurity experts inside and outside the government. It gave him the chance to apply his thesis to real life. He knew he wanted more. At Accenture, he applies industry frameworks to the financial services company’s cybersecurity program, translating the latest in cyber policy and technology into applications that fit the company’s needs.

Carleton advises current students to take advantage of their professors and attend events with expert speakers. “And if they have a chance to go to DC, 100 percent do it,” he added. “… It’s kind of brought to life this whole world of politics and public policy and how all these different fields are changing so rapidly. Any small way you can get involved in IPS, I would absolutely recommend it.”