How College Students Help Keep John Deere Secure

Cybersecurity program at Iowa State University continues to grow


Problem solving, the hands-on work, and an opportunity to create solutions that help people. Those aspects of cybersecurity work are what led Rian Lamarque to choose a career in cloud security.

Rian Lamarque.
Rian Lamarque

Lamarque, who studied Cybersecurity Engineering at Iowa State University and was both an intern and part-time student at Deere, is now set to join our Cloud Security team full-time upon graduation.

“The most exciting part is that I do something different every day,” Lamarque said. “Some days I am doing coding, some days it's architectural design, other days I am learning about new cloud services. “

"Recently we completed a project to review our network posture over the course of about 18 months. Seeing it evolve from when I was an intern to contributing to the design as a part-time student to rolling out the product was a great accomplishment, and it excites me to make more products like that.”

But it’s the end-result that excites Lamarque most.

“Knowing my team's impact on other developers at John Deere and how their work reaches the customers makes the work feel very rewarding,” he explained.

A program grows

In 2017, John Deere employees saw an opportunity to work with Iowa State and to embed students from the university’s cybersecurity engineering program into our security teams. Since then, Deere has hired over 70 ISU students through the program.

“The intention was to build a talent pipeline from the ground up,” said Megan Wheelock, Director of GSEC Risk Management and JDF BISO, noting that Iowa State has one of the five best cybersecurity engineering programs in the country. That combined with the school’s close proximity to multiple Deere facilities made it the ideal fit.

The program is based in the ISU Research Park in Ames, Iowa, which is just south of the university campus.

"The program was built to have people leaders based in Ames,” Wheelock explained. “This was intentional to ensure students were not only supported by their peers/buddies, but also had a manager close by to facilitate relationship building and help the students learn about John Deere."

As the program has grown, so have opportunities to get students involved in challenging work that makes a difference.

“We wanted to make sure that there were teams in Ames that students wanted to be part of,” Wheelock said. “So today, that's primarily vulnerability management and cloud security. We wanted students to work on fun and exciting challenges.”

A never-ending challenge

Lamarque said the combination of cloud computing being new and the growing use of cloud services means cloud security professionals are evolving to meet new challenges.

“Each cloud provider regularly rolls out various updates to service along with brand-new services,” he noted. “This constant evolution requires you to adapt quickly and reassess security practices that are in place. The most challenging part can be ensuring developers are given enough access to effectively use a service which we have achieved through various identity and access management automation.”

For those considering a career in cybersecurity, Lamarque recommends exploring its many subcategories such as network security, cloud security, and penetration testing, before deciding which to pursue.

“From my experience, penetration testing is taught the most in schoolwork because it is more well-established and has plenty of resources to do labs/practice on,” he said. “Though there are plenty of online resources to learn about other aspects of cybersecurity, you can always find your niche.”