Adam Hardinger

Principal Cyber Security Engineer

Base-2 Solutions

What led you to your career, or what inspired you to build a career in national security?

I started my career as an Engineer for Clear Channel's eight radio stations in the DMV. This led to the world of Server Administration, which exposed me to the deskside support role and gave me the ability to grow

My story begins with a dream of having a career as a DJ at the radio station DC-101. I started off in the rack rooms and server rooms as an Engineer for Clear Channel’s eight radio stations in DC. This led to the world of Server Administration, exposed me to the deskside support role, and gave me the ability to grow and learn while also meeting some of the most influential people in music (Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Buffett, U2, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, and many others). I was also the head project engineer for the Don Imus 2005 Presidential Inauguration broadcast. We prepped and interviewed Sen. John McCain, then-Sen. Barak Obama, Larry King,  and Vice President Cheney. That was my first exposure to security, security clearances, and security sweeps.

Later, I supported SportsTalk980 WTEM broadcast of the Coach John Thompson show with Rick “Doc” Walker, Bryan Mitchell, The Sports Reporters Steve Czaban and Andy Pollin, as well as headliner Tony Kornheiser who would yell out over the air that Dinger needed to get into the studio to “fix my email machine!” At that point, as I was growing more into my role, I realized I needed new and different challenges.

I moved to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) where I continued developing my love of the Open Systems Interconnection Model layers 1 through 4. I was eventually assigned tasks associated with VPN and remote offices and continued learning and perfecting server management, as well as desktop support. As I grew into the mission of NCMEC, I found myself engaged in implementing this new concept of security from the National Institutes of Standards and Technology. We first implemented the Risk Management Framework for NCMEC. At that point, I was hooked and found a passion for information security.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

The most rewarding aspect of my job continues to be knowing how directly supportive my daily activities are to the warfighter. Being a part of the mission and seeing the passion of the people I work with, both clients and customers whom I serve as a provider, all understand the mission of information security, continually inspire me, and is very energizing and rewarding. My teammates are as passionate as, if not more so than I am.  That continually inspires me and is very energizing and rewarding.

What is the best career advice you have received?

There are three great pieces of advice I've received throughout my career.

  • First, "You have to want it. Not just Information Technology (IT) but whatever IT is. The drive and fire will not be there to try unless you REALLY want it.
  • The second piece of advice I've received is, fail. Take calculated risks, take notes along the way, and know how to fail.
  • And finally, know where you can go to get harsh criticism. Failing and criticism are things you will learn the most from. Find as much as you can of each.

What is one piece of advice you are still trying to master?

The one piece of advice I am still trying to master is “less is more.”

Who are your mentors?  Who has inspired you?

I have been fortunate to encounter a myriad of mentors and peers for inspiration. I look to the DoD CIO office, DCIO for Cybersecurity & Chief Information Security Officer David McKeown, Thomas Wedige, and Chris Pinover. I will also contact former supervisors like Christopher Goze and Andrew Lang and peers like Matthew Beardall, Matthew Laing, Andrew Bustamante, Maria Luengo, Harold B. (Buck) Adams, and Stanley A. McChrystal.

Can you describe a skill you have carried throughout your career that has always proved valuable?

A skill I have carried throughout my career and has always proved valuable is my ability to harness the passion for the missions I have participated in. In directing that energy, I have been able to be a part of change and assist in many of the much-needed overhauls.

What is your favorite movie, book, TV Show, or podcast?  Why?

The books I have listed have a wealth of knowledge and provide the foundation for the history of Information Security in industry and the government.  Many books intertwine as the linear stories reference the other events within the same period.  Others build from where a previous book left off.

  • Favorite books: The Cuckoo’s Egg by Clifford Stoll, Sandworm by Andy Greenberg, Takedown by Markoff and Nakamura, anything by Kevin Mitnick, Threats: What Every Engineer Should Learn from Star Wars by Adam Shostack, and the entire Tom Clancy Series.

The movies I have listed are a bit of “bubble gum” but have critical elements of hacking, tenacity, indomitability, or pertinency.

  • Favorite movies: The Tom Clancy Series, Die Hard Series, Indiana Jones Series, Top Gun (both), and the Beverly Hills Cop series.
  • Favorite podcasts: Darknet Diaries and Everyday Espionage

What is one thing you would change within the Intelligence Community?

I would love to influence change, to encourage more significant cross-communications and sharing of resources to save cycles and the often "recreation" of the wheel.

What are your future career goals in the IC?

My future career goals in the IC are pretty high. I would love to become an agency's CISO or CIO. 

The most rewarding aspect of my job continues to be knowing how directly supportive my daily activities are to the warfighter.

Adam Hardinger