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Lt. Col. Devin Smiley, USMC (Ret)

Athena Program Manager

Retired Lt. Col. Devin “Hat Trick” Smiley serves as the Athena Program Manager for the Naval Postgraduate School Foundation & Alumni Association. In this role, he manages Athena, a platform that connects the global community of DOD researchers, sponsors, industry partners and other stakeholders, fostering collaboration and innovation across the globe. Devin also serves as an adjunct professor of Cybersecurity at the United States Naval Academy.

Smiley joined the NPS Foundation after working for Amazon Web Services (AWS) for over two years as a Senior Program Manager for classified cloud access. Prior to AWS, Smiley served in the Marine Corps for 24 years. His experience ranged from enlisted infantryman to AH-1W Super Cobra Instructor pilot and Forward Air Controller with 9 deployments including multiple tours to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Pacific Theater.

Smiley earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the United States Naval Academy. He went on to earn a Master of Science in Computer Science and a postgraduate certificate in Cybersecurity from the Naval Postgraduate School. He also holds Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certifications.

After graduating from the Naval Postgraduate School in 2017, Smiley became a Data Systems Specialist and Program Manager with assignment at the Headquarters Marine Corps, Programs and Resources to manage the Marine Corps’ unclassified commercial cloud efforts.

Smiley is married and has four children. He enjoys being active with his kids and volunteering on the rugby pitch with the Naval Academy Rugby teams.

Reflecting on your time as a student at NPS, what are some of your most memorable and impactful experiences or takeaways?

The opportunity to explore problems and concepts that I was passionate about was particularly impactful. There are way too many fantastic memories to choose one to be 'most memorable.' As a Naval Aviator and self-described tech-forward thinker, I was particularly passionate about tablet aircraft integration. That led me down the path of a thesis where I explored particular cybersecurity concerns of prototype devices. I was also able to attend many workshops and conferences exploring aviation, mobile devices and mobile device management including DEFCON and the Tactical Advancement for Next Generation (TANG) workshop.

Why did you decide to take the Athena Program Manager role with the Naval Postgraduate School Foundation?

Some of my fondest memories in Monterey involve Naval Postgraduate School Foundation events. I participated in every opportunity that the Foundation had to offer. I swore that if the opportunity ever arose to return to the Foundation in a professional aspect that I would take a closer look. When I heard what Athena was and the problem the application is solving, I was sold.

In a few sentences, can you tell us what Athena for Partners is, where it stands now and what the plans are for Athena & Athena for Partners?

Athena for Partners is a collaborative research tool to enable innovators and innovation across the national security ecosystem. Athena is a software application, built on Microsoft Teams, which is now in production and available for students, faculty, staff, DOD leadership and corporate partners. The plan for Athena for Partners is to gift a version of Athena to NPS while also maintaining Athena for Partner within the NPS Foundation to leverage important corporate partner involvement.

Thinking about your time as a student at NPS, what value would Athena have added to your time, first as a student and second, in your follow on positions within the DOD?

As a student, I struggled finding the appropriate people across the DOD to cultivate my thesis topic. When I heard about Athena, I immediately recognized the value of Athena to students, faculty and DOD leadership when matchmaking for thesis research. The ability to have a virtual community and conversation around topics and documents of interest drastically improves research discovery and collaboration.

I have also served at the Pentagon as a program manager and realize how difficult it is to capture research associated with a particular topic. Athena provides the ability to provide insights to program managers and institutional leadership on the type and quantity of research being conducted across myriad topics.

In your role as Athena Program Manager, how did your conversations and experiences you had and the panels you attended while at WEST shape the way you are thinking about Athena and growing Athena?

While attending the keynotes, panels and meetings, I carried my tablet with Athena installed. I was able to immediately look up news articles and information resources, including theses and research topics on many of the topics while they were being actively discussed. I can easily imagine how powerful Athena will be as a research tool when other publicly available research sources and corporate research is discoverable in Athena. I received immensely positive feedback and offers to provide research to Athena and increase the pool of knowledge that Athena helps make discoverable.

What is the value of bringing together an interdisciplinary and innovative community at events like WEST 2024? What were your most significant takeaways from the conference?

The most significant takeaway was the common goal between DOD, industry and international partners to improve national security and partnerships. I also recognized the value of my NPS education and fellow NPS Alumni. Fellow alumni would notice the NPS pin on my lapel and offer that they were also an alumnus. I lost a lot of NPS Alumni pins that way! Inevitably, a quick introduction led to a more significant conversation about our time in Monterey and the value of a multi-disciplinary approach to problem solving by bringing together a large group with incredible diversity in background. WEST 2024 was a perfect melting pot of folks across the Defense spectrum.

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