2016 Rising Star Awards

Matthew Derenski

IT Cybersecurity Engineer, Office of the CIO, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA

Meet the rest of the Rising Stars

2016 Rising Stars
Click here for profiles of all the 2016 winners.

Matthew Derenski got into technology as a kid — literally. “I’ve always kind of been interested in computers since I was little, mostly taking them apart and destroying them,”he said.

He expected to continue down the path of computer networking, but that all changed afterhe transferred from community college to a four-year college to study IT. A professor connected Derenski with a summer job at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which ledto a part-time job at the lab while Derenski finished college. After he graduated, the lab hired him for a cyber security position.

Derenski took on the management of JPL’s log system for security problems “and then just started suggesting improvements to it, improving the process,” he said.

His boss then tasked him with deploying full disk encryption across JPL. Next, he transitioned to cloud computing, and he’s been there ever since.

Derenski led the effort to establish secure, rapid cloud-based IT infrastructure access,provisioning and billing for the lab’s multi-cloud computing environment. As a result,current and future space flight missions and projects have benefited from secure and reliable yet inexpensive computing power, which has also allowed JPL to curb its demand for dedicated data centers.

Derenski is also credited with dramatically speeding up the deployment of new programs and systems and promoting on-demand computing, which increases efficiency and lowers costs.

Colleagues attribute his success in large part to his can-do attitude.

“The characteristics that underlie all of his work activities are a sort of steadiness and thoughtfulness tempered by flexibility,” said Stephen O’Hearn, manager of engineering and project management at JPL. “He is always prepared to be challenged and consider those challenges, changing his position when appropriate.”

About the Author

Sean Carberry is a former FCW staff writer who focused on defense, cybersecurity and intelligence.


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