David Mak in Khoury College
David Mak, identity and access management engineer

On Veterans Day—and every day—Northeastern IT Services is grateful for the courage and sacrifices of those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. 

One such veteran in ITS is David Mak, an identity and access management engineer in the Office of Information Security.

“Veterans Day, for me, is a day to recognize the service of those who have sworn an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America,” said Mak. “While we may have voluntarily joined or been involuntarily drafted, serving for many different reasons and coming from all backgrounds, we had a common cause to unite us all.”

Mak, who grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, enrolled at Northeastern as an undergraduate in 1987. Realizing that his heart wasn’t in his studies and after nearly failing a quarter, he decided to do something drastically different: He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1989 as a 19D Cavalry Scout. “It was, I thought, about as far removed from the classroom as I could get,” Mak said. “How wrong I was.” 

Along with driving, practicing gunnery, exiting aircraft in mass jumps, serving as an opposing forces soldier at a training center, maintaining armored vehicles and weapon systems, moving office furniture, and scrubbing barracks floors, much of Mak’s Army experience was spent in classrooms, both as a student and an instructor. He realized that he had left one school for another—and he learned the value of education.

After serving with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Doha, Kuwait, as part of Operation Desert Storm, Cpl. Mak left active duty, determined to return to Northeastern to finish what he’d started.

“The transition from my military career to higher education was based entirely on the Army preparing me to be a better student,” Mak said. In 1993, he completed a B.S. in computer science and then secured his first full-time civilian job with GTE Government Systems, a position made possible by a friend who had worked there as a co-op student and then full-time after graduation.

Mak also joined an U.S. Army Reserve aviation unit at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, to continue his military career until his obligation was fulfilled in 1997.

David Mak's 1989 enlistment photo
19-year-old Mak in his enlistment photo
David Mak and fellow solder in a plan
Mak and the 11th ACR on a flight to Germany
David Mak graduating from Northeastern
Mak at graduation, 2022

After many other jobs, Mak joined ITS’s Identity and Access Management team in 2015. Four years later, he enrolled as a student and earned an M.S. in cybersecurity in 2022, completing what was effectively his third stint as a Northeastern student.

Mak noted that Northeastern historically offers considerable support for veterans. The university’s Dolce Center for the Advancement of Veterans and Servicemembers, led by Air Force veteran Andy McCarty, is dedicated to helping veterans achieve their educational and career aspirations.

“During the spring 2022 semester,” Mak said, “my cyberlaw class had three veterans and one active-duty soldier enrolled. From the first day of class, we all ended up sitting next to each other in the rear of the classroom near one of the exits.”

Not surprisingly, Mak continues to find ways to serve. Before the pandemic, he enjoyed helping out at the New England Center and Home for Veterans on Court Street in Boston. Because the organization prefers group teams over individual volunteers, he said he may try to organize such groups in the future if there is sufficient interest.  

“I would coordinate a team if there is interest within ITS to help out with projects at the center. Thanksgiving is coming up, and food service help is always needed.”

Learn more about the history of Veterans Day from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.