Ask the Howlers is a monthly cybersecurity expert roundtable on LinkedIn Live where James Alliband speaks with security thought leaders about emerging attack trends, the latest threat research, and how to maintain resilience as a security professional. Follow VMware Carbon Black on LinkedIn to be alerted of the next Ask the Howlers roundtable and to watch past episodes.
- Job title: Senior Security Strategist and Manager of Product Marketing
- Years at VMware: Nearly 2 years
- Location: United Kingdom
- First job: IT support and consultant for my dad’s IT business
- Fun fact: In my other life, I’m a football referee – or soccer for anyone in the U.S.
Tell us about yourself and your role at VMware.
A little bit about myself – I live in the middle of the UK, about 20 miles south of Birmingham. I live with my wife, my 15-month-old child, and our 3-year-old shiatzu. I’m a football referee and a big family person.
I started at VMware in product marketing, looking after EMEA and APJ to help ensure the regions grow. I was recently promoted to manager of product marketing, so I look after the team globally. It’s a great part of my job, helping the regions and people grow.
I’ve also become a Howler in the last year which is a lot of fun.
How did you land a career in security and what led you to VMware?
I landed a job in security by chance. I had just left my dad’s company and really had this interest in antivirus and firewalls and felt this area of IT could be an opportunity for me. I interviewed at a cybersecurity reseller in the region and just loved the culture, that is where I really landed my feet in security. I then started working with Check Point Technologies, initially as a sales engineer and then as a product expert. I was at Check Point for just under 5 years and Check Point gave me the opportunity to visualize my career and drove my passion for product marketing. This led me to my role at VMware.
You’re the host of VMware’s Ask the Howlers Livestream. Tell us, what is a Howler and what does this Livestream series aim to achieve?
Ultimately, a Howler is somebody who is a security expert and someone who is truly passionate about cybersecurity. They typically work at VMware or for a partner of VMware. But they’re somebody who is truly passionate and wants to be a loud voice and get across their message in the industry. They want to help our customers and prospects really understand our strategy and what is going on in the market.
What the Livestream aims to achieve, first and foremost, is allowing people to elevate their voice and talk about topics as a Howler that they want to get our audience involved in such as ransomware and cyber insurgency and threat reports we publish. It’s really starting to drive a lot of different conversations, so the Livestream is a platform to do that and serve our customers with up-to-date information on what’s going on in the industry at this moment in time.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
I don’t have one but will try my best to answer this. My typical workday is managing a team of product marketers who are based in Australia to California. It’s a lot of fun and is a very dynamic day. My aim is to make sure we are elevating the security profile of VMware through the lens of product marketing. Now, we are all working from home so I typically do customer calls in Europe and am on cross-collaborative calls with people across the business strategizing and looking at how we can achieve our various goals within the organization. And of course, also supporting my team’s goals and what they’re owning at this moment in time.
What excites you most about working in the security industry?
This is an easy one to answer. I feel like working in the security industry is of such great importance today. I look back at what I said about falling into cybersecurity and I truly feel honored to have had that opportunity and been able to take my career onto this path. Helping make the world safe from cyberattacks truly means a lot to me. But a layer down from that, it’s ultimately educating customers and prospects on how we can help them be more secure and ensure their brand reputation is kept intact. There’s a big influence in the industry and now more than ever we’re realizing how important security is to help organizations evolve. If we can look back and say we really made a difference in security, and I believe I will be able to do that, for me that’s a big thing I can get out of my career personally.
What has been the biggest lesson you have learned during your security career?
Don’t take innovations for granted. You always must stay on your toes in this industry. And don’t take national holidays for granted!
Security is continuing to evolve, and vendors are ensuring they can stay ahead of the game. But it’s important from a vendor POV that we are on our toes and ready to react because the bad actors are constantly evolving, and so we must be on the front foot in that sense.
In addition to your role at VMware, you’re also a Level 5 Football Association Referee. What are the similarities between officiating on the pitch and officiating in cyberspace?
I’ll answer this in two areas. First and foremost, as a referee, I must make decisions in a matter of a few seconds. I must take a snapshot of something in front of me and decide on what I’m going to do and how I’m going to react. Of course, there’s a lot of training and experience involved in that. And ultimately there’s a lot of gut reactions I must utilize in my game to make sure I can make the best decisions possible as a football match official. I think security operations and those working in the security space must do very similar things. We must react, we must have a lot of training to fall back on, we must look at logs and data and different points of time and make decisions about what may have happened and how far we must rewind the tape. There are certainly similarities there in terms of taking that snapshot of info in front of you, consuming it, and making quick decisions.
The second part is something we talk passionately about which is the cyber skills gap. There’s a lot of burnout in the industry and a lot of people who want to look for an exit route out of security. And unfortunately, we’re seeing the same in refereeing as well. There’s a lot of mental and physical fatigue in refereeing. You know, people turn up by themselves to referee 22 players and still get yelled at on that pitch. And it’s sad to see referees also looking for an exit route and thinking maybe the burnout is enough for their Saturday afternoon. So, I think there’s a lot of similarities there which we could work on both sides to improve.
Any hot topics you’re looking to dive into on Ask the Howlers in the future?
Absolutely. One is really close to my heart and it’s modernizing the SOC. There’s an element around how can we make security operations more automated and more efficient. Helping security operations and that narrative around burnout is a hot topic for me. How can we make people’s jobs simpler, easier, and more operational? That’s a topic we can dive into as there’s a lot of information at this moment in time we can dig into and see how we’re ultimately improving people’s lives.