This story originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Harker Magazine.
By Vikki Bowes-Mok
Alex Iftimie ’03 arrived at Harker in seventh grade and was excited to be in Silicon Valley at a school with plenty of technology offerings. He loved to take computers apart and rebuild them, and he used his rudimentary coding skills to help middle school teachers create their first classroom websites in the late ’90s.
He imagined getting his MBA and working at a tech company, but that all changed when he discovered debate in ninth grade.
“Debate opened my mind to policy issues, got my competitive juices flowing and gave me confidence that I could succeed academically,” remembered Iftimie. “It set me on a different path and also allowed me to practice English.”
English was Iftimie’s third language. He was born in Romania and lived there until he was 6, when the revolution prompted his family to leave. After that, he spent six years in Canada, speaking French before his family moved to Silicon Valley when he was 12.
“Alex is an extraordinary human being whose participation in debate was noted not only by sheer excellence but also by his humility and regard for others,” said Matthew Brandstetter, Iftimie’s debate coach who is now a speech and debate coach at Milton Academy in Massachusetts. “Alex was a debate coach’s dream student, and his continued success in life is no surprise.”
After high school, Iftimie decided to parlay his passion for debate into a law degree. He attended the University of Southern California, where he studied international relations and global business, knowing that he would go on to law school. While at USC, he was captain of the Trojan debate team and advanced to the quarterfinal round at the prestigious National Debate Tournament College Nationals.
After graduating from USC, Iftimie took a year away from school to work on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
“Having come from communist Romania, I was always interested in this neat idea that you could participate in your government and that candidates won elections through the force of their ideas,” remembered Iftimie. “Obama was an inspirational leader who captured for me the virtue of government and public service.”
Iftimie’s focus on public service prompted him to study law at Yale Law School and spend his summers at government internships in Washington, D.C. When he graduated, he clerked for an appellate court judge and then took a job with the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The best part about working for the Department of Justice was the sense of mission and purpose. I had the privilege to work with committed civil servants and to pursue justice every day,” said Iftimie.
As he pursued a career in law, Iftimie’s background and interest in technology allowed him to find his niche. “A key part of my success in the government went back to the fact that I understood technology.”
This foundation allowed him to work on hard legal issues at the intersection of technology and national security law, such as intelligence collection reforms, terrorists’ use of the internet and investigations of nation-state sponsored cyberattacks.
After nearly six years at the National Security Division, he served as a prosecutor in the National Security and Cybercrime units in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, where he brought charges against those involved in Russian efforts to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections.
Although he remains committed to public service, he recently moved to the private sector to broaden his legal experience, and to use his government background to advise clients on complex cybersecurity and national security issues. He started with Morrison & Foerster in Washington, D.C., and just relocated to San Francisco with his new wife, Melissa Antal.
As a middle schooler who enjoyed tinkering with computers and participating in debate, Iftimie didn’t know where his path would lead. But he has successfully forged a career that combines his passions for technology and law.
“Alex was one student who really opened my eyes to what is possible. He could absorb and learn new ideas and concepts at a rate that was absolutely breathtaking,” said Rand Harrington, Iftimie’s physics teacher at Harker who is now head of school at Kent Denver School. “Alex was the epitome of what I had always envisioned as the ideal student — a fierce intellect, highly motivated and intensely curious.”
Vikki Bowes-Mok is also the executive director of the community nonprofit Compass Collective.