How did they get here?

by Black Hat Middle East and Africa
How did they get here?

A warm welcome to our newest subscribers - the 13 cyber warriors who joined us last week! 🥳We are delighted to have you as part of our community. Each week, we'll be sharing insights and ideas from the Black Hat MEA community straight to your inbox, including exclusive interviews and key moments from the #BHMEA22 keynote stage. Thank you for subscribing and stay tuned for more!

This week we’re focused on…📢

How top cybersecurity professionals started their careers.


Because there are many routes into cyber. And for those just starting out in the industry, it’s useful to know that there’s no right or wrong way to begin. 🛣️

If you don’t know anyone else who started their careers in the same way as you – that’s not a bad thing. Cybersecurity needs diverse teams with a huge variety of experiences to inform their perspective on risk and security.

So we asked five cybersecurity experts how they got started.🎤

1. Matt Lemon PhD (CISO and VP of Cybersecurity at Huawei)

“I started out over 25 years ago as an IT architect, designing systems and networks at a time where the internet wasn’t really a thing and very few businesses had connections to anything else.”  

“As networks started to get connected I was involved in the design of those connections and began to get more interested in making those connections secure. That led me to learn about security when it was in its infancy; and I gradually got more and more involved in security until it was my full time job.”

“When applications and systems became more and more connected, and as cloud started to evolve, security turned into cybersecurity and there was even more to learn. The key thing to staying relevant in cybersecurity is that there is always something new to learn and that’s what keeps me interested.”

2. Phillip Wylie (Security Solutions Specialist at CYE)

“I started my career as a CAD (computer-assisted drafting) drafter and after a few years working as a CAD drafter, I discovered the role of system administrator. I taught myself how to build computers and took a 90-day Novel NetWare network operating system course.”

“After completing the course, I got my first system administrator job in September 1997. I worked as a system administrator until January 2004 and was offered a role on the security team. I started out in network security managing firewalls, and intrusion detection systems (IDSs), doing vulnerability scans, and risk assessments.”

“In 2005 I moved into an application security role and that is where I decided that I wanted to become a pentester. I did web application vulnerability scans and managed third-party pentests and remediation. I got laid off in 2012 and I got a job consulting as a pentester.

3. Gary Hayslip (CISO at Softbank Investment Advisers)

“I honestly got involved in cybersecurity during my military career. I was working in IT and was doing both software development and network engineering. I enjoyed those roles, but I always found doing security more interesting, especially when building and stress testing networks.”

“A pivotal moment for me is upon reflecting on my career path in cyber after leaving military/government service and transitioning to private industry, cyber is still cyber.”

“No matter the vertical or industry the basics still need to be followed, whether you are legacy, hybrid, or 100% cloud many of the basic cyber hygiene security controls still apply even if they look different. I remind my teams we aren’t working in a job; we are working in a discipline made up of both technical/soft skills and as the technology and threats change over time the basics still need to be followed. Cyber is still cyber.”

4. Wojtek Swiatek (VP and CISO at Dassault Systèmes)

“I had an unusual career path, starting with academia (studies and PhD in Physics), then discovered the world of IT and managed several operations across EMEA, and finally fell in love with cybersecurity when it was still a rather obscure part of technology. It was a wild ride from there on, witnessing the rise of large-scale threats, the cloud and the uberisation of cyber criminality.”

5. Gram Ludlow (SVP, CISO at Marriott Vacations Worldwide)

“Since a young age I have been fascinated with puzzles of all types. As I matured, I also gained a strong sense of right/wrong, and wanted to do something creative and beneficial for the world.”
“But everything really came together for me as a young adult when an early mentor of mine gave me a nudge in the security direction. Everything clicked! The combination of challenge (technical, human, organisation) with the chance to protect people drew me quickly in and led me to where I am today.”

We’d love to know how you got started in cyber

I started in…

1. Coding or software development 🧑🏻‍💻 vote

2. Academia 🏫 vote

3. Military 🎖️ vote

4. Something totally different 🆕 vote

If you want to learn more, register now to attend Black Hat MEA 2023. We’d love to see you there.

We value your input!  if you have an idea for a topic you'd like us to cover in our next newsletter. Drop us a message and share your ideas! Our next newsletter is scheduled for 12 July 2023.

Catch you next week,
Steve Durning
Exhibition Director

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