Twists and turns

Charlie Escue’s career took some interesting detours on his path to manager in University Information Security Office

NICE VIEW. Escue and his family snap a pic in front of the Grand Tetons a few years ago.

Like a lot of people who work in tech, Charlie Escue was first enticed into the field by video games.

To play his favorite game, Tribes, an early first-person shooter game, Escue knew he’d need a PC with Windows. He’d seen the game at a friend’s house, and “my mind was blown,” he recalled. “I’d already graduated high school, and I needed a computer—but I was lacking funds. So I enrolled at Ivy Tech Community College so that I could get a student loan to buy a computer and then I could get Tribes.”

Problem solved—and career born. In the 20 years or so since, Escue has earned two degrees from Indiana University and worked his way up the UITS ladder, from senior network engineer to IT strategy business analyst to lead security analyst to his role today as manager of the extended information security team.

The lovely ladies in his life. Escue's wife, Ochmaa, stands with their daughters, Khulan (left) and Sayana. 

A range of experiences

Escue’s path up the leadership ladder at IU has had its share of twists, turns, and fateful connections. In the beginning, armed with his new student-loan computer, Escue figured he’d take some introductory computer information systems courses to start. That morphed into working on his Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification so he could start earning money. “It was around 2000, and the CCNA was the go-to certificate to get into data networks because Cisco was the name of the game,” he said.

The CCNA class put him in touch with several IU connections. He met Jason Brahaum, who is now manager of IU’s Campus Network Operations; his childhood friend Ian Washburn also enrolled, and he now serves as manager of systems risk mitigation for IU; and the course was taught by Adam Sweeny’s wife, Karen, now a business computing lecturer at the IU Kelley School of Business. Today, Adam Sweeny is a systems engineer in the UITS Enterprise Systems group.

With the help of these connections and his CCNA certification in hand, Escue landed his first job as an hourly in the Networks group. By 2005, he was in a professional position as senior network engineer, working alongside his buddy, Washburn. (In fact, the two friends, who met as 12-year-olds in B-town, have worked together a few times during their IU careers.)

Old friends. Escue and Ian Washburn (right) go way back. They met as bike-riding 12-year-olds and have been adventuring ever since. 

In Networks, Escue managed multiple campus wireless network deployments of over 5,000 access points in Bloomington and IUPUI, and also coordinated the full replacement (and expansion) of Bloomington campus access points twice. After a few years in Networks, Escue moved on to the IT Community Partnerships group, where he consulted with IT leaders and professionals on policy interpretation, risk evaluation, management of IT assets, security strategy, business analysis, and IT audit preparation.

A busy dude and dad

Whew. All this, while at the same time finishing up his Bachelor of Science degree in the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering and, while raising a family with his wife, Ochmaa Escue, who works in the IU Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs as director of the overseas studies and scholarships program. (In 2013, Escue earned a Master of Science in Information Systems through the Kelley School of Business with a focus on enterprise risk management.)

The couple met when they were both working at Washburn’s uncle’s press clipping agency—long before Escue began his UITS career. The uncle had hired some people from Mongolia, including Ochmaa, and long story short: Charlie and Ochmaa started dating, and they recently celebrated 17 years of marriage with their two daughters, sixth-grader Khulan and first-grader Sayana.

Both Charlie and Ochmaa are avid travelers and have raised their girls to love it too, taking them along as they explore the United States, Europe, and Mongolia. Of course COVID-19 has put a wrench in that.

“These days, we’ve been getting into hiking because it’s pandemic friendly. But really, we’re just trying to have a fun life and bring a little joy to the kids. You know what I mean?” he said with a laugh. 

Celebrating Mongolia. Escue and his family have visited Ochmaa's home in Mongolia several times. Here, Escue and his daughters wear the traditional dress of hat, deel (tunic), boots, and accessories. 

A move to security

Escue’s foray into security began in 2015, when he took a job as lead security analyst at the University Information Security Office (UISO). In that role, he helped improve IU’s third-party security assessment process by taking stock of the current process, proposing new ideas, and basically improving communication and efficiency.

In 2018, he took a new role at UISO as manager of the extended information security team. In the years since, he’s been busy working to integrate security professionals from IU units into the University Information Security Office. His goal? To reduce recovery time for information security incidents and to proactively manage imminent threats affecting university assets. The bottom line: Escue is on the front lines of IU’s daily battle against cyber criminals.

A huge part of that battle is working to make sure IU’s latest cycle of its Cyber Risk Mitigation Responsibilities policy, known as IT-28, goes off without a hitch. This time around, the UISO is taking a more consultative and collaborative approach with departments to help them succeed in the IT-28 process. (Read more about this new approach.)

Happy hikers. With the pandemic putting a stop to their frequent family travels, the Escues have been exploring the hiking trails around Bloomington.  

To meet these goals, Escue works with colleagues at the Luddy School, the College of Arts and Sciences, Athletics, and the Kelley School of Business to coordinate information sharing about imminent threats.

"Our new approach to IT-28 means we’re able to get to know the IT Pros and the researchers, build relationships with them, and help them understand the environments that they're in. We can establish a rapport and we can start to build that kind of program improvement. We can help identify the risks that units want to mitigate, rather than just saying "follow IT-28.'"

It’s a new way of doing business for UISO, and it agrees with Escue.

“What I love about IU is the support for professional development and the ability to be creative and problem solve,” he said. “We’re developing a program that doesn't exist anywhere—and never has—and it's always changing so we're able to adapt however we want. It’s exciting!”