Career Notes 8.14.22
Ep 112 | 8.14.22

Christian Lees: It's not always textbook. [CTO]


Christian Lees: Hello, my name is Christian Lee. I'm the CTO of Resecurity.

Christian Lees: My earliest recollection of what I wanted to be is a farmer, believe it or not. I'm assuming not many people on this show say they wanna be a farmer, but, I guess I was fascinated by kind of like the heavy equipment and like, they all had this very unique use case but that did not take place. I'm not a farmer now.

Christian Lees: Well, as a young person, I've actually considered myself to be a bit of a late bloomer. For example, I did not go to college immediately after graduating from high school. I actually waited until I was roughly 23 and worked a lot of jobs and I quickly realized I'm like, man, if I'm gonna get ahead I need to go to college. Of course, like any other freshman, I was not sure what I wanted to do. I thought I wanted to be in medicine of some sort. A family friend gave me my first computer in college and I was stoked, man. I'm like, oh my gosh and believe you me, this computer that was given to me is like completely outdated. I believe it was like a 486, you know, DX. I did not know how to work on it and I could not get it to print and so I was forced to ask the person that gave it to me, like, "why is it not printing?" And I marveled within like 10 seconds, he's like, "oh dude, you just gotta hit F10," and I'm like, "really?" But it was at that moment where I'm like, this is something good. I immediately went to computer science and I've never looked back.

Christian Lees: I was actually offered a job, from IBM Global Services and I was like, wow, this is like three times more than I make as a student or four times more living on nothing. So I was really lucky to go directly into the workforce, and it was the entry level position. In fact, it was desktop support, but I loved it, I was so proud. From that point, I fully knew that I'm at the bottom, right? I gotta climb and it took me a while to find my way, but I was stoked. I just, by pure luck in college, I was introduced to media outlets and I just, I knew that I wanted to work towards information security. So, I put in my time, I worked and I got exposure to a lot of different things and when I left IBM Global Services, I knew that I really had a passion for telephony or network engineering.

Christian Lees: I got offered a position at a new company called Level 3 Communications. I was on like cloud nine at that point, I mean, of course we have to earn a salary, but I'm like, it doesn't even matter. I would pay them to be here and learn this and have exposure to this enterprise networking gear. So, I took a position and I primarily helped companies or individuals turn up their co-location services or their dedicated private lines. So that's really where I cut my teeth on network engineering. I owe everything to that opportunity. 

Christian Lees: From that role, I always kind of followed my north star. Ironically right about that time we hit the .com bust. All of a sudden it happened, 50% of the company was cut and I was just thankful to have a job, you know? I was forced to take a role in change management and I was just beside myself I'm like," I'm so overqualified for this," but in retrospect, oh my gosh. By pure luck, again, I was introduced to something that is so crucial in security. That's change management, right? Understanding the impact, making sure that it's been burned in. To this day, I think it's change management is a very difficult thing for organizations to comply with or do successfully.

Christian Lees: But at that time, I was just kind of like really bummed out. I'm like, "wow, I took a wrong turn, what happened?" Um, but like, like everything else, this too passes, right? Stay neutral, stay calm, keep working, upwards and onwards, and sure enough, everything stabilized. I was just by pure luck, again, recruited in Level 3 to security engineering, took a role as security engineering and I just kept hungry and, eventually I took another role at Trustwave, leaving my favorite place on earth Level 3 Communications.

Christian Lees: Even Trustwave, I found myself all of a sudden, I'm like, "did I make another wrong turn?" Because I was really just focusing on PCI compliance for fortune 100 brands and kind of a hybrid of pen testing, right? So, my job was to grind on the infrastructure and convey to the brand why are they not PCI compliant? And it was just grinding on infrastructure over and over, I mean, I could spend three or four days just finessing some sort of cross site scripting knowing it's there and sometimes you don't find it and sometimes you do. 

Christian Lees: From Trustwave, it was the banking collapse in 2010 and I took a position at InfoArmor and I was like, delighted. I was going to be the CISO. Shortly after taking the job, we lost our largest client, essentially under a seed fund from WAMU and, and I was like, "wow, oh did I make another mistake?" But it turned out like, it was amazing, what a great opportunity I went to Informer, it was like green fields. I became the CISO and help diversify the products and, offer largely dark web alerts. 

Christian Lees: For some reason when I came on at Informer as a CISO, I just felt not afraid of anything and I would pick up the phone and just explore opportunities with the companies, and learn what's going on, and fortunate enough to be able to apply that to our products and hopefully it made a difference. If I get 50% of what I want, I'm lucky you don't always get what you want and when you don't get what you want, it doesn't mean it's over.

Christian Lees: For those of us that are pursuing a career in information security, I always found it kind of interesting that gosh, when you get there, there's so many flavors of security. Are you focused on web application security? Are you focused on network security? There's just so many different layers of security and just so find what it is that you love, and go after it and don't let anyone be a naysayer and use every moment you have in every opportunity to the best of your ability. You know, it's not always textbook, define friction points in it, you may join security field, not knowing what you're gonna do, but by being that curious person and breaking things and putting it back together, you'll find the right way and just never stop being curious.

Christian Lees: There's just not enough of us, understanding that you have to cut your teeth on things, and sometimes you get stuff that you don't really want to do. You might think you're better, but just do it really well and the world will be your oyster.