Let knowledge serve the FBI

A digital path to the FBI

Learn why PSU is ranked among the most innovative universities in the nation >> 

As the Section Chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cyber Division, Trent Teyema finds himself at the heart of one of the most volatile areas of national security. During the Obama administration, his expertise was recognized with an assignment to the White House as Director of Cybersecurity Policy for National Security Staff. “I couldn’t believe I was there,” says Teyema. “I never thought I’d be assigned to work in the White House.”

Teyema’s journey to the FBI began when he was 12 years old and growing up in Portland. He went on middle-school tour called Landmarks of Democracy, which included a stop at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. At the end of the tour, an FBI agent pulled out an old tommy gun and did a shooting demonstration. “That cinched it for me,” says Teyema, who decided right then that he wanted to to become an FBI agent.

His goal was not an easy one: Teyama says that for every FBI job available, 10,000 people apply. He worked his way toward the FBI through other law enforcement agencies, starting at the age of 15, when he began became a Boy Scout law enforcement explorer in the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. When he turned 21, he was made a reserve deputy.

At the same time, Teyema also attended Portland State University. “It was easy to go to class and keep working,” he says. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Administration of Justice in 1991, and in that same year, while still a senior, he started working with the U.S. Marshals Service.

Teyema was involved with digital investigations from the very beginning of his career. The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Portland Police Bureau were among the earliest law enforcement agencies to work with digital forensics, and as an explorer with the sheriff’s office, Teyema was asked to pull data off of seized computers. “We had to write our own software and code to forensically preserve evidence.”

Teyema joined the FBI in 1995. The agency had been doing digital forensics since the mid-1980s, but in 1996, it began getting into cyber investigations, which made Teyema’s experience and skills uniquely valuable.

He encourages those who would follow him into the FBI to focus on the areas that fascinate them the most. “If you’re interested in working for the FBI, get your college degree in something you’re interested in, not just something you think we’re looking for, says Teyema. “You don’t have to be a police officer, or former military. We hire from all walks, all different sectors.”

Among all of Teyema’s many accomplishments in his FBI service, one in particular brought him full circle: he got to demo the tommy gun for tour groups visiting the FBI.

At Portland State University, we believe knowledge works best when it serves the community.