Ken McCreedy spent 26 years in the Army, rising to garrison commander at Fort Meade, before his recent appointment to oversee the cybersecurity office at Maryland's Department of Commerce. But the now-retired colonel's career nearly took an entirely different path.
McCreedy was a graduate student with plans to become a history professor when a glimpse of the nearly nonexistent job market persuaded him to join ROTC, in hopes of securing a teaching post at the U.S. Military Academy.
"So I signed up — and 26 years later, I never went to West Point to teach or even visited West Point," said McCreedy, whose father was a barber and whose mother was a homemaker during most of his San Diego childhood.
McCreedy started in the Army as an intelligence officer studying Soviet tactics, but the military's role was rapidly expanding.
During his time in the military, McCreedy worked on drug enforcement, the U.S. intervention in Bosnia and efforts related to Iraq, finally overseeing Fort Meade as it prepared for a base realignment that brought thousands of jobs to Maryland.
"The world had dramatically changed in that 26-year period," he said. "By the time I retired in 2008, with the global war on terror and enemies all over, you couldn't really focus on any one thing."
McCreedy then spent several years in Maryland's defense contracting private sector, working for a pair of workforce development nonprofits before heading up a defense-related cybersecurity division at ManTech International.
He left the firm in 2013, in part out of frustration as federal funding became harder to obtain. He became head of Maryland Therapeutic Riding, a nonprofit he became interested in toward the end of his time at Fort Meade when the group sought to establish a therapeutic riding program for veterans and military personnel.
He "got the call" from the state Commerce Department in November.
One part of the job is "traditional" economic development — supporting, retaining and recruiting Maryland businesses in the state's thriving cybersecurity field. He also wants to make sure that every business — and state government — is prepared to meet hacking threats.
"There's an education process," he said. "We're recognized as the experts in the world, and we want our companies looking to Maryland for the solutions rather than going to Silicon Valley."
Since he was at Fort Meade, McCreedy said the state has embraced its role as a center for cyber and other tech work, even though it still lags behind other hubs when it comes to attracting investors. But Maryland's traditional investment culture is growing more comfortable with startup ventures, especially as more private firms have started to emerge, many of them coming from the public sector.
"Capital is beginning to flow this way to a certain extent, but we have a lot of work still to do," he said.
Title: Senior director of cybersecurity and aerospace, Maryland Commerce Department
Hometown: San Diego, Calif.
Education: B.A., Washington & Lee University; Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Family: Married, three children, four grandchildren
Interests: History and baseball