General Paul Nakasone speaks to a class of Georgia Tech students

Head of NSA, U.S. Cyber Command Visits Georgia Tech to Discuss Excellence, Recruiting, and Cybersecurity

Army General Paul Nakasone believes the U.S. does at least two things better than any other country.

“We make code. We break code,” Nakasone told a class of Georgia Tech College of Computing students during a guest lecture on Jan. 18.

Nakasone, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, always looks to recruit the brightest minds to bolster the nation’s security. That’s one reason he visited the College of Computing after hearing about Georgia Tech winning its third consecutive NSA Codebreaker Challenge.

Georgia Tech dominated the 2023 Codebreaker Challenge with 175,000 points, amassing nearly 750,000 points during their three-year reign as champions.

“It’s not like they just win,” Nakasone said. “It’s double the competition, so we look at that and say, ‘Okay, something is going right down here. Whatever culture you’ve been able to establish, we’re excited about that.’ Those are the folks that we’re interested in being able to attract to our agency and our command.”

conference room
NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone (center right) holds a round-table discussion with Georgia Tech leaders. Top photo: Gen. Nakasone shares his insights with students in a cybersecurity engineering class. Photos by Kevin Beasley/College of Computing


Nakasone began his visit with a round-table discussion with leaders from the College of Computing and the Georgia Tech Research Institute. The general and the other NSA leaders who attended were eager to learn about the trends and talent among Georgia Tech students who will be in the job market soon. Leadership participating in the discussion included:

Nakasone introduced Kristina Walter, director of the NSA Future-Ready Workforce Initiative, to discuss ways the NSA can support Georgia Tech students and recent alumni through its hiring and career programs. According to Walter, the agency is working to offer raw talent something more than the traditional salary and benefits package. 

Due to a generation shift within the NSA and the job market, Walter and her colleagues have implemented opportunities for workers like hybrid work schedules, an NSA alumni program, and expanded internships. Despite these and other efforts to meet the demand, the need for top talent at the NSA is growing. 

“We're hiring about 2000 people a year,” she said. “We'll hire 50% of our workforce over the next five years.”

Walter also said one of the benefits of working for the NSA is flexibility. Future workers can balance a career with the NSA with another position in industry or academia if they chose to do so.

“We’ve been used to that 30-year career model where folks came and committed to us,” she said. “We set up an NSA alumni program. You work in industry, partner with us at our Cybersecurity Collaboration Center or our AI Security Center. If you want to come back, we fast track you so you can have that career.”

Georgia Tech’s academic leadership was happy to provide feedback to NSA leadership on the needs of the latest generation of job seekers. Omojokun noted concern among SCI students, all undergraduates, over layoffs at large technology companies and the potential impact on their ability to find stable jobs after graduation.

The SCS and SCP chairs echoed these concerns for the graduate students enrolled in their schools. Sarkar added that SCS students are aware of the societal impact of their work and are interested in opportunities with the NSA. Bailey added that SCP students seek meaningful, technical, and engaging experiences at Georgia Tech and after they graduate.

People walking
Professor Annie Antón (left), walks with NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone on the Georgia Tech campus. Antón invited Nakasone to speak to her class as a guest lecturer. 


During the round-table, Nakasone pointed to Georgia Tech’s commitment to cybersecurity with the establishment of SCP in 2020. The general circled back to the importance of cybersecurity toward the end of his visit, meeting with students in an AI privacy engineering course.

Antón teaches the course and invited Nakasone to be a guest lecturer. Before the talk even began, the classroom was packed with students and guests. 

The general began by sharing his assessment of cybersecurity’s role in national security. His lecture then walked his audience through the national security threats he experienced throughout his career before moving to current threats like AI and cybersecurity. 

“We see supply chain attacks, we see zero-day vulnerabilities, we see ransomware,” he said. “Cybersecurity is national security. How we think about that is much different at our agency today.” 

However, confronting these security threats takes more than just technical know-how. When asked by a cybersecurity and public policy master’s student about what he looks for from students like her, the general said critical thinking. 

“I’m looking for people who are given a tough problem and can think through it,” said Nakasone. “When you try to talk to the president or his aids about ransomware, or crypto currency, or large language models, you have to figure out how you're going to essentially get that down to the policy decisions they're going to have to make.” 

During his visit, Nakasone also met with Georgia Tech military fellows Gen. Philip Breedlove (U.S. Air Force, retired), Lt. Commander Mike Hammond (U.S. Navy), and Col. Matthew McGraw (U.S. Army). He then visited the recently created Veterans Walk of Honor, located in the Biotech Quad. The Georgia Tech Veterans Resource Center unveiled the walkway in 2023 as a tribute to the thousands of Yellow Jackets who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. military.

Two men speak outside
David Ross (left), director of the Georgia Tech Veterans Resource Center, speaks with NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone at the Veterans Walk of Honor.

School of Cybersecurity and Privacy Communications Officer John Popham and School of Interactive Computing Communications Officer Nathan Deen contributed to this story.

About the Main Image

NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone (left), speaks to a class of Georgia Tech students. The director of the NSA and leader of U.S. Cyber Command was invited by Professor Annie Antón to be a guest lecturer. (All photos by Kevin Beasley/College of Computing)