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Celebrating Black History Month: Gina Marshall-Johnson

Gina Marshall-JohnsonFour years ago, President Obama called on Americans to “make an enduring commitment to serving your community and your country in whatever way you can.” Gina Marshall-Johnson took that challenge to heart. At the time, she was working for AT&T and had spent more than 20 years in the telecommunications industry.

“I had spent most of my career in the corporate world, doing well and generating profits for businesses,” says Marshall-Johnson, of the Asymmetric Operations Department (AOD). In fact, she was doing better than “well”—over two decades, she had built a reputation as a powerhouse in the wireless communications industry.

After earning a master’s degree in electrical engineering and communications and digital signal processing from The Johns Hopkins University, she joined the technical staff in the transmission systems area at AT&T Bell Labs. Six years later she moved to Bell Mobility in Toronto, where she began her work in the wireless industry. She led a team of engineers that designed and deployed backhaul microwave systems in Ontario and Quebec.

In 1992, Bell brought her back to Maryland, where she spent the next four years developing technical solutions to support the White House Communications Agency and the Pentagon; deploying new wireless technologies; and managing multimillion-dollar budgets. She moved to AT&T Wireless in 1996, and her accomplishments propelled her up the company ladder.

Her accomplishments have been chronicled in the pages of Wireless Week and Diversity MBA Magazine and recognized by the Greater Baltimore Committee, an organization of business and civic leaders. Marshall-Johnson had recently completed a special assignment for AT&T Wireless to ensure that the network was prepared for the usage demands of the 2009 presidential inauguration when the president issued his call to service.

“President Obama’s first election totally shifted my thinking in terms of the relevance of the government to my life,” she says. “His challenge to serve was a wake-up call for me. I took a step back and decided I wanted to broaden my thinking and focus my influence on contributing to the safety of my son [who was in the Army Reserve] and of my country.”.

After talking to friends who worked at APL about the Laboratory’s work—and liking what she heard—she joined AOD as senior professional staff and began applying her formidable expertise to cybersecurity issues in the Cyber Operations Mission Area. “One of the biggest threats to the safety of our country is the increasing number of cyber attacks,” Marshall-Johnson says.

One of her first projects at APL was to develop systems engineering security requirements for a mobile communication system. She worked with a team of experts to tailor requirements to the needs of the Commercial Mobile Alerting System, a Department of Homeland Security alerting network designed to broadcast emergency alerts to mobile devices. She is currently a project manager for the Department of Homeland Security National Cyber Security Division, supporting system development for the White House’s Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI) in the areas of intrusion prevention and information sharing.

“It was the right move,” she says of her switch from corporate to the not-for-profit APL. “I am serving by helping to protect our nation’s networks and contributing to agile development for safer communications across the federal government and the broader community.”

Marshall-Johnson resides in Columbia with her husband of 28 years. Now that they are nearly empty nesters, they enjoy traveling, volunteering at their local church, and spending time with family and friends.