Q&A with Lolli Buran

Meet the Unusual Suspects

The world has experienced a dramatic shift towards integrating technology into everyday life. Through this rapid adoption, new challenges arise daily for talented cybersecurity professionals to solve. The Unusual Suspects are those who follow a different path—one which may not be so obvious, but has equipped them with the unique knowledge and experience to impact the changing landscape of cybersecurity.

What is your job at Lockheed Martin?

I am the Program Manager of the Grid Services Management Operations (GSM-O) Network Assurance team. I am responsible for program, operations and workforce of a global team in five time zones.  

Lolli Buran, Project Manager, GSM-O Network Assurance "It is motivating when you team pulls together across the globe to address a challenge," says Lolli Buran (center).

We defend the “.mil” networks. The mission the team supports, defending the Department of Defense Information Network for our customer, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), is incredible. While meeting the needs of the mission, it is vitally important to nurture and connect a team of 134 people—who don’t physically sit with me.

We have to filter through the flood of information so that analysts are seeing things that are actionable.

It’s like filtering through Facebook. In order to use Facebook to connect and be social, the user needs to sort through the ads and the game requests. It’s looking through the noise for something meaningful.

Tell us about your journey and career path.

I started with the company more than 30 years ago as a secretary trainee with a two year degree. I love to organize things, take things that are chaotic, and find the root of the issue. In the last six weeks of my college coursework I trained on computers. Of the 180 secretaries in the company I was one of six who understood how to use the computers they were just beginning to put on the desks.

In my first job in Owego NY, I started work on the space shuttle program and we built the black boxes for the shuttle. I stepped into a program that was days away from flight four and hit the ground running to support a critical mission

Because of my management and career discussions, I went back to get a degree in programming along with friends who were also secretaries. I went into office automation and I was on a team of four. We did the equipment ordering, training, installation, and help desk support for 180 admin assistants. That is where I learned project management. It’s organizing things from beginning to end.

After a few years I eventually moved to the Washington area with my husband. From there I moved into configuration management. It’s tracking what we have built and how we built it.

My team worked with development to build and capture the code baselines. We knew if there was a problem we needed to track backwards, identify the error, rebuild the code and understand the changes.

The entire last eight years of my career are a mix. I started moving into program management. None of these jobs are specifically cyber, but shades of cyber. I was building shades of cyber experience and didn’t even know it.

What additional tools did you need to accommodate your evolving cyber career?

Certifications! Certain levels of certifications are required for certain positions. In an 11 month period I attained my PMP, ITIL Foundation, and CISSP. The CISSP was the hardest exam I have ever taken.

If you look at the certification, it covers 10 areas which range from business continuity, physical security, risk management, cryptology, telecommunication, and a variety of other pieces. I didn’t realize it, but because of my experiences I had knowledge, just not the same level of technical detail pieces of the certification required.  

Cyber certifications

If you were to offer advice to someone with “shades of cyber”, what would it be?

Take the leap with both feet into cyber! You have to make a conscious choice at some point to decide which angle you want to take. My current role is specifically in network assurance where I continue to learn from amazingly talented people. You need to also know where new work is coming in, the type of positions and timing to consider new paths.

Where do you get your energy?

The people and the mission. It is motivating when you team pulls together across the globe to address a challenge.


When you have a large work force you have to structure your team, yourself, and the team rhythm in a manner that lets them succeed. To me, that’s organization.

You mentioned you like to organize. What’s you organizing life hack?

I am an avid scrapbooker and photographer. I connect my virtual team with photographs. It gives everyone on the team a sense of belonging.

Also, I love office supplies!