John Sciandra (’01M)

National Security in a Shed


To say that JMU’s In-fosec program taught John Sciandra (’01M) everything he knows about information security is stretching the truth, but to say that it taught him just about everything he knows about distance learning is not. And it is thanks in large part to his JMU master’s in computer science information security that Sciandra has landed a contract to teach a similar distance-learning pilot program for the U.S. Army.

Sciandra is president of the high tech information security company NACON Consulting LLC. In addition to designing the distance-learning program for the Army, NACON has completed a contract with the Federal Aviation Administration, wrote a computer security handbook for the General Services Administration, and was on retainer to help the Pentagon reconstitute its IS systems after Sept. 11.

Sciandra is doing quite well with a company that started in his shed. “I’ve been interested in computers since I was in high school and had my first encounter with a teletypewriter,” he says. “It was a very loud machine. When you typed hello, it sprang to life, saying, ‘Please log on now.’ — like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Despite an early fascination with computers, Sciandra didn’t find his true calling until he found out that information security was a career field when he got out of the Army in 1995. “I was working at Orion Scientific Systems Inc., a company on the leading edge of government intelligence,” he says. “I told them how they could adapt their tools to be able to work in IS space. But they didn’t go for it, so I quit.”

Sciandra went to work as an information security manager for TASC Inc. and worked as a civilian Army contractor until 2000. After that, he was a security consultant to Acuent E.C. Inc. for less than a year before starting NACON.

He was drawn to the high visibility of JMU’s Infosec program, which “allowed students to interact across time zones,” he explains. “You could post questions to a Web board and have them answered by someone in California. You have a list of peers with whom to network, which is really important in information security.”

Sciandra started NACON in his home in Annapolis, Md. The five current employees, including David Manning (’01), work from home computers and conference via video on high-speed Internet connections. “We are in the black,” Sciandra says. “We don’t have a business loan and we can make all of our bills while building up our cash reserves. I went to a venture capital meeting and a speaker there said ‘stay in your garage as long as you can.’ I think we will.”


Story by Sande Snead Fulk (’82)


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