Career Notes 7.31.22
Ep 110 | 7.31.22

Larry Cashdollar: Always learning new technology. [Intelligence response engineer]


Larry Cashdollar: Hello, my name is Larry Cashdollar, and I am a Principal Security Intelligence Response Engineer at Akamai Technologies.

Larry Cashdollar: If you look at my 1986 yearbook, I think it was my sixth grade class, it says computer scientist for my career path. So I had a love of computers when I was really young. I guess I knew what field I wanted to get into right off the bat.

Larry Cashdollar: My school in New York City, this was Brooklyn in the 1980s, was one of the first schools in New York to get computers. So, I had a computer class, where they were teaching us just basic programming and then my family had relocated to Maine and, uh, the first school I had gone to didn't have a computer course, this was before high school I wasn't into computers at all, like I kind of drifted away. I was struggling with being relocated and ended up moving away again and going to a school which had a computer science department and I ended up signing up for programming courses.

Larry Cashdollar: I had a roommate who was also in a computer science class and he didn't have a computer, so he would come over and use mine. I'd let him do schoolwork, and then I remember losing track of my friend for about a week. So I go to his room and I knock on the door and my friend had discovered Linux and what happened was he had installed it on his computer and had just stopped leaving his room for a week. He says, "you gotta see this," and I'm like, "okay." So I come in and he goes, "it's Linux," and I'm like, "what is that?" He's like, "it's Unix for your computer." So then we went upstairs and I partitioned my hard drive to give me some space to take some Windows off and install Linux the Windows partition got smaller and smaller and just got deleted, and then I just started learning more about computer security and hacking, and we joined a Linux club at University of Southern Maine and from there it just sort of spiraled off into, eventually, I had left college and I had gotten a job at a local company, called Net Main which was a security company and I was doing a lot of penetration testing there. That was really my proving ground for just learning about basic security.

Larry Cashdollar: So that's where my career really started to gain roots. I was being paid, I think at the time $7 an hour. And my wife who was working at the hospital was making $9 an hour and she was working part-time there, but I think she was working maybe a little bit less time than I was working full-time and she was making nearly what I was making.

Larry Cashdollar: I decided that I was gonna leave and join Computer Sciences Corporation and I had applied there because my friend had left and said "Hey, you should come up here and get a job, you'll make more money." He's like, "there's a lot more stuff to do and it's just a better environment." So I'm like, okay. So I applied and the person interviewing me just happened to be one of the guys that my father had worked with when he had worked near or with BIW for years. So I kind of knew the guy interviewing me and I guess I answered everything spectacularly because he called me an hour later and offered me a job making.

Larry Cashdollar: Net Main sort of set me on the course, and then Computer Sciences Corporation gave me field to hone my skills on and then jump from that to going out to California for a year and doubling my income and moving up in the ranks of Unix administrator, and then finally getting a job at Akamai back in 2000 and I was told I had a fan base in Akamai that were watching me and they were cheering me on, and I guess there was this plan concocted to eventually get me into the InfoSec group. I guess it took years, but eventually I ended up getting pulled into the InfoSec group. They had a tabletop exercise at Akamai, where they would pretend that a system was being broken into and then they would ask what sort of actions would you take? And it turned out that this meeting was kind of like an interview for me that I didn't know about and so eventually after this tabletop exercise, which I guess I had a lot of input into, I got a phone call from the manager, said, "hey, how would you like a job in information security group, doing what you do at night? Come join my team, you'll be able to go to DEFCON, you'll go to conferences, you'll go to trainings, you'll work with customers on doing security. You're gonna be focused on the security of the internet as a whole. So you can do all sorts of research that you want to do and you'll have a lot of fun." And, I thought about it for a day and I'm like I have to do this, this is my real passion. So, I decided to join the InfoSec group and it's been great since. I've almost been at Akamai for, I think it's 22 years, this August next month will be my 22nd year at Akamai. 

Larry Cashdollar: There's so much more new technology now than there was 20 years ago. The computing world was way more simpler. You had a server and a client, and now you have a server, client, the cloud, edge systems that are contacting the cloud, and the cloud is not really cloud, it's just someone else's computer. There's all sorts of frameworks now, you know, there's there's content management systems, there's different programming languages. I mean there's just dozens of things that you can learn now and you can't expect to be an expert in all of 'em. It's good to get familiar with as many as you can, but there's just so much to learn now. It's just hard to keep up. 

Larry Cashdollar: It is a lot to juggle and when I was 25 years old and my wife was on second shift and all we had was a dog. It was easy to just say I'm gonna take this block of time and just read and do this stuff now. It's like, well, I wanna take my son go-karting today and my wife wants to go out and have some beers and listen to live music. So, I'm gonna go do that. I'm not gonna sit on the computer cuz honestly my family wouldn't let me anyway. So it's a big challenge and I I'd have to say as you get older, it probably gets harder because there's just more other distractions. 

Larry Cashdollar: I hope people use my work to learn from and just enjoy and if it inspires somebody, that's great. If somebody sees something that I've done and says, "hey, I'd like to do something like that." And it gets them into the field or it gets 'em excited about something, or it gets 'em to find their own CVE and document it that's a win for me.