February 10, 2017

CARTERVILLE — Jarrod Echols — a graduate of John A. Logan College — once saved his little sister from drowning in a Southern Illinois farm pond. Today, he is protecting his country working for the Executive Office of the President in Washington, D.C.

Echols was 10 years old when his eight-year-old sister, Morgan, fell through the ice on a pond in rural Murphysboro. It was Dec. 22, 1998. The story of his heroism was widespread in local media.

“There’s no question what he did that day saved our daughter’s life,” said Paul Echols, Jarrod’s father.

Today, while little can be revealed about his efforts, Echols continues to put the safety of the others first while working on the front lines of the nation’s cybersecurity.

Echols is a member of the White House Information Technology Team, identifying and combating threats to the Executive Office of the President network.

Echols took a moment recently to discuss how his life’s journey has taken him from rural Southern Illinois to one of the biggest stages in the world, Washington, D.C.

While his parents, Paul and Sheila, instilled a strong work ethic in their son, they also gave him an early introduction to technology by purchasing the family’s first desktop computer in 1996.

“It was the beginning of an amazing evolution of computer technologies and I was in the middle of it,” Echols said. “I was completely hooked.”

To make sure their son was staying on track with homework, his parents password protected the computer. Echols, however, would soon “find a way around it.” Of course, this is something he would not reveal to his parents.

Echols attended Murphysboro High School. There, he learned about dual credit courses offered through John A. Logan College. While in high school “I began my college education to learn more about computers.”

Echols marveled at the instruction he received at the College.

“I had amazing instructors who came from the career field with real world experiences,” Echols said. “This made their lectures much more intriguing.”

Echols especially pointed to the instruction of Professor Mark Rogers.

“Mark Rogers stood out the most, especially since his focus was network security,” Echols said. “He always went into amazing detail on how to secure the network based on his own experiences outside the classroom. The classes included a lab, which allowed me to practice hands-on with the equipment and software.”

Because of the “foundation of success” he found at John A. Logan College, Echols went on to obtain an undergraduate degree in Information Systems Technologies (IST), and a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

His MPA degree required an internship in government or a non-profit prior to graduation. In 2012, he accepted an internship with the United States Senate’s Cyber Security Department. After fulfilling the internship, he was offered a job with a contractor, which allowed him to remain with the Senate, working in their Cyber Security Operations Center.

A few years later, he had the opportunity to move from a contractor position to a federal government position. With that change, he was offered the chance to lead the Senate Cyber Threat Intelligence Team. This year, he was offered the position as a member of the White House Information Technology Team, supporting the Executive Office of the President.

An incredible journey, he says, that took direction at John A. Logan College.

“As I look back, I will never forget the foundation of my success began at John A. Logan College,” Echols said.

Echols’ father is a highly-decorated police investigator. To see his son fighting crime at such a high level gives him, understandably, a great sense of pride.

Echols said his father’s work is what caused him to go in the career direction he did.

“As I learned more about computers and helped others, I noticed that some of the computer problems were being caused by the malicious actions of others,” Echols said. “All of my life, I heard the stories of how my father helped find clues from crime scenes and sought justice for victims. That appealed to me. Therefore, I decided I would focus my studies in the area of computer and network security. From a cyber standpoint, it is very similar to what my father did.”

Today, Echols’ sister works as an emergency room physician’s assistant for Southern Illinois Healthcare based in Carbondale, also helping the lives of others.

“It’s amazing where life can take you,” Paul Echols said. “Twenty years ago, I took Jarrod to visit the FBI Academy. Last summer, with his connections in Washington, he took me. I know my son’s abilities, education, and concern for others has taken him to the right place. But he’s always had a knack for being in the right place at the right time,” Paul smiled.