Being COO of CyGlass basically means that I put the pieces together for Ed Jackowiak, our CEO. We’re a small team and operate with a start-up mentality, very agile and adaptable, which means that being COO is like a ‘Josh-of-all-trades’. It’s a challenging role that can be intense, but it makes the workload really diverse, from dealing with customers and getting involved in marketing, to making sure the team dynamic is good. We have a great group of people at CyGlass – many of us have worked together for years – and we’re pulling together to solve a hard and important problem, delivering cyber security as a service in a way it hasn’t been before.
I joined CyGlass in 2017 but have worked with Ed since 2009 after we met at Netegrity. It was Ed that pulled me away from being an engineer, which had been my work for about a decade, to give me a taste for pre-sales; pitching ideas and persuading people rather than simply creating the technical solution or fix. It’s quite a different skillset but somehow I seem to be wired for both the technical work and the people-facing work. Quickly I was engaging with some of the most demanding customers in the world, corporates who know cyber security inside out. It was a tough transition, but the challenge energised me – and I’ve always liked people so it was good to get out among them more.
Technology was around when I was growing up because my dad worked as a software engineer and my mum ran her own book business, using the Apple II computer we had at home. From about the age of five or six I was programming, with the encouragement of my dad, and I remember giving a presentation at school when I was seven about high and low resolution images. My classmates looked pretty blank – this was back in the 1980s – but it was all fascinating to me. Math was my best subject at school (we didn’t have computing lessons in those days) and though I took the computing and technical modules at university, ultimately I majored in math.
My first role after graduation was at IBM. They didn’t take many graduates that year, so I sensed I had some talent and the two years spent there provided an incredible learning experience. It also helped me to realise that working for a big corporate company was not the path for me through the tech sector; I needed to build a set of skills and a network that would keep me vibrant and employable, self-sufficient rather than being tied to one company forever. That’s the way I’ve always worked since then, employed as a contractor for big companies like Oracle and BEA Systems but also for lots of start-ups, which are small and fast, intense but exhilarating. Along the way you meet people you really trust and respect, and there’s a group of us who ended up sticking together. Most of us are now at CyGlass, which makes for a really safe space to bounce around ideas and a great work dynamic, which is critical in a small enterprise.
Nominet has been fantastic since CyGlass was acquired in 2020. The company has been so welcoming and supportive and it’s great to think of how much more we might be able to do together. That said, my journey with CyGlass so far has been pretty extraordinary; taking a complex and powerful cyber security tool, initially funded by US federal agency DARPA for their use, and making it available to the masses. Cyber security solutions are changing rapidly but it still feels like we have a unique product and solution – that’s exciting.
CyGlass NDaaS (Network Defence as a Service) is a network behaviour anomaly detection solution that uses artificial intelligence to surface and prioritise unknown threats within a network. It uses NetFlow analysis to do this, and is cloud-based, which of course is ideal when the world is locked down. It’s really complementary to the expertise Nominet has in terms of extracting data from the DNS analysis and we’re already learning lots from the Nominet cyber team, plus getting support from the marketing team to promote our product and spread the word.
My work days are a bit mad – my calendar is completely nuts – and some days start at 7am when we’re working with people in other time zones, then don’t finish until 7pm. Winding down is pretty quick though, with three kids and two dogs. In the US we’re not so good at the work-life balance, especially when working for start-ups, and end up putting in excessive hours – so I’m encouraged by Nominet’s focus on wellbeing. We still have targets and work hard, but learning that we can only be at our best if we take care of ourselves along the way. I love what I do and am still energised by the rush of it, even after all these years of long days. Cyber security is a vast, complicated place and you have to keep learning, keep moving forwards – that’s what makes it such a great sector to work within.
Find out more about CyGlass on the website.