Paul Berry MPP'15

Growing up on a farm, Paul Berry MPP’15 learned from a young age to prepare for all eventualities and be adaptable. Those early lessons in versatility and flexibility are reflected in a diverse educational and professional journey, which, far from being complete, presently sees him moving seamlessly between the seemingly disparate worlds of hard-edged cybersecurity work and electoral politics.

In his primary role, Berry serves as the Director of Data Intelligence for Aegis Mobile, a global leader in digital optimization and security solutions. He and his team provide tactical and strategic guidance, as well as monitoring of telecommunications networks to prevent intrusion, unauthorized use of data, and any other activities that might threaten an individual’s data or violate their reasonable expectation of privacy.

However, as with many Harris graduates, Berry’s job title merely scratches the surface when it comes to his pursuits and passions. Always “active” in public service, Berry has become more politically active in recent years, serving as a data analyst for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. 

Last year, he was appointed by the Governor to the Virginia Latino Advisory Board (VLAB) to advise on small business, workforce development, and other issues affecting the health, economic, professional, cultural, and educational prosperity of the Latinx community within the state. He has since been elected Secretary of VLAB and works alongside full-time administration staff, subject matter experts, and community activists who implement policy on the ground.

“When I was growing up, I was always involved in public and volunteer service, either through my church or at school, rather than politics. I credit my parents with always stressing the importance of volunteerism and giving back to the community. That’s how I approach my role on VLAB: bringing together people and ideas around something achievable in the community,” said Berry. 

As disappointing as it was to see Clinton’s presidential bid fail, Berry says it was a great experience to be part of such an incredible group of individuals. Furthermore, he firmly believes that working on the campaign played a pivotal role in his VLAB appointment. 

“It is increasingly difficult to work in any administration—local, state, or federal—without first working on campaigns, for two reasons. First, campaigns are intensified mini-simulations of actual governance. Second—and this is a reflection of the complexity of contemporary public policy— grasping the full vision and scope of a candidate's ideas enables one to enact those plans and data-driven solutions later."

Of course, anyone with Berry’s diverse background would be well-positioned to take on virtually any challenge. In the 12 years since graduating from Brown University with a bachelor’s in theoretical mathematics, he has held more than a dozen different jobs and earned two master’s degree. 

Before entering Harris, Berry earned a master’s degree in political science and government from the University of Geneva. With Harris, he saw the opportunity to dig deeper into economic and public policy themes from a traditional academic perspective. He also knew the school would provide a specific set of tools for the job market he would eventually enter. 

“As a mathematician, I already had a quantitative foundation. But Harris offered advanced PhD courses available to qualifying students who wanted something more challenging than the standard Core classes. The combination of data-driven curricula and advanced coursework— which is 95% absent at other top policy programs in the US— made Harris the perfect choice,” said Berry.

“I prioritized developing a broad knowledge on a variety of topics—a practical approach encouraged by my schoolteacher mother that mirrored my father’s example, as a farmer, of doing what you could with the environment you had around you. I carried this into my professional and graduate school lives. There’s nothing wrong with specializing, of course, but because I had the opportunity to pursue a range of topics, I was able to choose opportunities based on what I found most challenging and interesting at the time,” he noted.