Career Notes 7.10.22
Ep 107 | 7.10.22

Simone Petrella: Fake it, until you make it. [CEO]


Simone Petrella: Hello, my name is Simone Petrella and I am CEO of CyberVista.

Simone Petrella: I was very into national parks, and I wanted to be a national park ranger, more specifically, maybe a research scientist to study volcanoes. So I know there's not a lot of logical link to cybersecurity there, but I did discover that the fatality rate of, uh, volcanologists is quite high because you cannot study them without actually entering an erupting volcano. So turns out, it's a scary field to go into.

Simone Petrella: 9/11 was a very transformational event for me, I had gone to undergrad in Washington, DC thinking I would get involved in something in government or something in the policy realm, and being in Washington DC at the time, actually really changed my focus and interests and international relations and specifically counter-terrorism. But it was very much driven by, you know, the war on terror and things that we were dealing with in the post 9/11 era.

Simone Petrella: I got into the DOD, I thought I would stay there and I actually ended up leaving to stay within the industry. I went to work for a defense contractor extensively to do similar work to what I had been studying just with a different color badge, if you will and I distinctly remember I was in between contracts and I was fortunate to have a clearance and I had a manager that said, "hey, can you go help out on this contract, we have a small team that's supporting one of our clients doing intelligence support to computer network operations," and I had no idea what that meant. I had no concept of the subject matter or anything else, but I was like, sure let's give it a try and see what happens, and I walked onto that team and it was very small, and I have a distinct memory, of one day being asked by my manager, "would you like to stay on and do this full time with this team and this mission?" So I jumped head first, I said, great, let's let's give it a try, and I, in some ways feel like I have been riding a wave, um, ever since.

Simone Petrella: As our team continued to grow and I rose up, what I learned was that when it comes to being an analyst, I ended up having a 0% success rate, taking someone with a purely technical background and turning them into an analyst. But what I could do was take journalism majors and pre-law or people with all these unique backgrounds that may have been like mine, or maybe biology majors, just anything, and if they had an interest and a ability to learn, I could teach them the technical. And when kind of the idea of CyberVista started, it was how can we tackle the skills gap in a way that actually solves the need of the employer and the mission?

Simone Petrella: It's actually, from the perspective of only the individual, go get this degree, as universities are coming up into the mix and starting degree programs, go sit for this credential, go take this training course. But then as the employer, on the other side, we're looking at these job roles that are changing, they're morphing, we're starting to evolve them as the mission space evolves. And there's really this massive chasm between the two. So I really felt like there was a way to help bridge that gap by looking at more of a organizational and employer centric way to how we kind of fill the talent gap and the skills gap that was around how do we think about the roles and kind of the measurable need we have for these types of skillsets in these jobs, as opposed to putting the responsibility on individuals to do it themselves.

Simone Petrella: I've learned that every day is a new set of challenges when you are running a company. Um, I have spent more time thinking about things like you know, our product strategy, how we're thinking about marketing and sales, things that are not related to the mission, how we do our hiring and bring our own talent, what's the right mix of skillsets, and how do we look at our mix of what we do with our client deliveries. Reviewing contracts, um, as they come up, there's pretty much not a facet of the business that I don't have to touch on a day-to-day basis. 

Simone Petrella: My leadership style is around, you know, it's impossible to build consensus, but you can gain buy-in and so I think it's incredibly important as a leader, that everyone has a say and input into every decision that we make as it pertains to where they are, and it's important for everyone to be heard, and I think co-opting people into the process is really important there as a leader. The second thing I would say is I am a firm firm believer in the idea of empowering people to really own and kind of run with the things that they're passionate about. I always say to new people that come on to our team, I would always rather have to reign you back in because you've stuck your neck out a little bit too far, then push you forward and I think it's just about like trust and accountability. People will go and do amazing things, but my job is to give them the tools to really excel in those areas.

Simone Petrella: The first thing I would say is to not be afraid to pursue and in some cases, jump into something that's totally outside your comfort zone. Um, there's the old adage to fake it until you make it, but it's true because it's not that you have to fake it, it's that if you are interested and passionate about it, you will get there. The second thing I would say is to spend the time to start to form relationships and a network of people that you admire and respect and find interesting to engage with regardless of the industry or the work that they're in, because you never know A: what opportunities that will present over time and B: it's amazing how much that diversity of what I consider to be informal mentors can provide perspective wise, as you think about those kind of next moves moving forward. 

Simone Petrella: I had had an informal mentor once very wise, and he told me that at the end of the day, when they close the box, what do you want to be remembered for? And at the end of the day, you know, I think want to be remembered for having a compassionate and big heart and I want be remembered for having, even if just a small piece to play in, in someone's life experience. I think that in itself is rewarding.