Story by: Mike Zitz

A number of community colleges around the country use the tagline “Start Here, Go Anywhere.”

Germanna’s tagline is, “Choose Who You Want to Be.”

John Chirhart won’t dispute the validity of either of those catch phrases.

The 2003 Germanna graduate has had impressive success working with Google and the federal government on cyber-attack defense, and he now runs his own cybersecurity company in Northern Virginia.

As the Lead Global Security Architect for three years at Google, he played a role in relaunching one of the best-known cybersecurity products on the market: reCAPTCHA. Chirhart's experience includes relevant stints supporting covert and clandestine operations for the U.S. intelligence community, leading vulnerability management for the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as working alongside companies that were plagued by cyber-attacks.

Chirhart, 42, is currently president and CEO of, a Fairfax-based technology incubator. Its first subsidiary, GTG.Online, is an email security company using Web 3.0 Technologies to solve phishing, business email compromise, and other supply-chain threats.  

When he was in the seventh grade, his family moved to Stafford from Puerto Rico.

He attended Brooke Point High School in Stafford County, graduating in 2000 with an advanced studies diploma and a C average.

He said he was: “passionate about all things related to computers and engineering. I was particularly humbled by how much I learned in the mandatory Microsoft Office class. That's when my attitude toward college began to shift.” It was a life trajectory-altering change. He credited Germanna for the direction of his life’s work.

Chirhart earned an associate degree from Germanna, a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Mary Washington, and a master’s degree in aeronautical science from Emery-Riddle.

At Germanna from 2000 to 2003, he said he found the “convenience and flexibility of the schedule were incredibly helpful.” He said he transferred from Germanna to UMW with the maximum number of credits allowed.

“The savings from Germanna became evident when I paid for my first class at UMW. It made me pause and consider the value of two associate degrees versus pursuing a bachelor's degree.”
John Chirhart
Germanna graduate

Later, he returned to Germanna to complete two humanities courses required for graduation from UMW.

“The flexibility of the Virginia Community College System and its partnership with other public universities allowed me to earn both an associate and a bachelor's degree in five years, despite working full-time supporting the global war on terrorism. I maintained a full-time course load [12 credit hours] for most of my college tenure.”
John Chirhart
Germanna graduate

Chirhart said the day when there should be any stigma attached to community college is long gone, and that employers should be eager to hire people who have found their way at Germanna.

“If you can balance a family, full-time job, and good grades?” he said, “Sheesh. There ain’t nothing you can’t do with the right budget or support. Those are the people I want to hire.”

Chirhart’s work has supported covert and clandestine operations for the U.S. intelligence community, led vulnerability management for the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as working alongside operating companies that were plagued with bot-perpetrated credential stuffing and account takeover attacks.  

When he was just a teenager attending Germanna, he became a licensed high school teacher. “At the age of 18, the state of Virginia granted me a vocational teaching license to teach at Forest Park High School in Prince William county,” he said. “Thanks to the Internet engineering work I did in the mid to late '90s while in high school, I had accumulated enough work credits to be accredited as a vocational education high school teacher.”

He transferred from Germanna to UMW with clarity and excitement about the path he wanted to take. 

“If there were a Virginia education bingo card, mine would be as full as my heart is with gratitude for the wonderful staff at Germanna who showed care when so many of us were too exhausted to do so.”
John Chirhart
Germanna graduate
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