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By Alicia Webb


Working under the leadership of U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, Professor Mike Rogers has led the country’s largest intelligence agency. With his vast experience and depth of expertise, he wants to help business leaders prepare for the ever-changing cybersecurity environment. His program Cybersecurity Essentials for Leaders, scheduled for Fall 2023, helps non-cybersecurity professionals get comfortable with critical issues in the space.


We sat down with Professor Rogers to discuss how the latest Executive Education offering can provide non-technical senior leaders with a framework to uncover current and emerging risks in order to develop a more effective cybersecurity strategy.


“I was very fortunate I got to do something I love,” former U.S. Navy four-star admiral Mike Rogers said of his 37-year career in the military and government. “I was able to work with a lot of people I really respect.” 


Rogers career in the Navy began in the traditional way, he drove ships. After several years, he changed paths and moved into intelligence and became more specialized. He took his skills and managed two, very large organizations (U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency) within the Department of Defense). While leading the nation’s largest intelligence agency, he focused on how to defend data, networks and learned as much as he could about cyber actors. “I had to ask myself, ‘Who are they? Where are they? What’s their objective? What are they after? What’s their strategy?’ I really had to get down to digital forensics.  My job was to make sure the government was prepared.”


Serving under two presidents, Rogers was responsible for supporting a lot of policy decisions. “President Obama tapped me to work with America’s CEOs to tackle the cybersecurity issues,” he said. “My work in cybersecurity gave me the opportunity to work across all areas of the federal government and private sector.”


Rogers quickly learned that a lot of critical infrastructure lives in the private sector, and he found himself straddling a lot of different fences. “The government doesn’t operate utilities, water plants or the financial systemsif any of those fail the government has to step in,” Rogers explained


Educational component in his new life


Following his career in the Navy, Rogers knew he wanted to be involved in some element of teaching. “I like being around young adults, seeing how they view the world and learning about what concerns them,” Rogers said. “I get energy from that. I like the idea that learning is a lifelong journey. I wanted to help others learn and keep learning myself.”


Having grown up near Northwestern University, Kellogg was a perfect fit for Rogers. “I wanted to give back to where I grew up,” he said. Rogers admits that his experience in higher education is very different from his time in the military. “I am not a professional educator. I was interested in a new model — I want to help corporate leaders. I don’t want to be viewed as someone who is a former member of the military. I want to be viewed as someone who has expertise in something that is applicable to today’s world.


Cybersecurity remains widely untouched among many corporate leaders 


Outside of the chief information officer (CIO) and chief information security officer (CISO) a lot of corporate leaders do not have a lot of knowledge about cybersecurity. Historically, it hasn’t been a part of their day-to-day responsibilities. “Board members, CEOs, CFOs, COOs, and general counsels are now being asked to participate in decisions around cybersecurity, saying ‘I don’t know is no longer an option,” said Rogers. “The level of investment around cybersecurity keeps increasing. Cyber is a tool being used by criminals to steal intellectual property and acquire advantage; you must be prepared.”


In his class, non-cybersecurity professionals learn how they can effectively make cybersecurity a priority for their organizations. The three-day program is broken into three modules and welcomes guest speakers and expert panels each evening. “Most attendees have significant experience; the class is interactive. We discuss what has worked and what hasn’t,” Rogers shared. “I am not here to talk at my students.”


Staying on top of cybersecurity issues


The Biden administration recently announced a new cybersecurity strategy demonstrating the critical nature of the issue. Rogers believes cybersecurity impacts all aspects of business. “The government is signaling you must raise your cybersecurity game. Expectations are only going to grow, said Rogers.


Our business models are becoming more and more cyber-connected, most companies are increasing their digital footprint. “Even though the digital world has challenges, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages,” stated Rogers. “The benefits of pursuing knowledge in cybersecurity are high it is a smart investment.”


Learn more about Cybersecurity Essentials for Leaders.