Career Notes 9.18.22
Ep 117 | 9.18.22

Jaya Baloo: Don't be afraid to bounce ideas off your teammates. [CISO]


Jaya Baloo: Hi, I'm Jaya Baloo and I'm a Chief Information Security Officer at Avast.

Jaya Baloo: I wanted to be a brain surgeon because why not? And then an astronaut, and then I thought that I wanted to be a diplomat for the United States and try to save the world. I was obsessed with my computer. Uh, When I was nine for Christmas, I got a Commodore 64, like I think a whole bunch of other people did. Um, but when I was younger, I also had, um, courses in basic in PS 24 in Queens and I loved it. I was pretty much hooked and so begging for a computer.

Jaya Baloo: I also got into some slightly stagey stuff. I still remember my first ever like glimpse at the anarchist cookbook and I thought, but why would you need to know how to have a pipe bomb and how to, you know, unlock a master lock, um, at the time and I was like, oh, that's pretty neat, actually. So there, there was all kinds of stuff available online that I don't know. I mean, that's still the case today.

Jaya Baloo: Because both my mom and dad worked for the United Nations, uh, in New York, I thought I should do the same thing. And I was doing this thing called model United Nations, which I was okay at and we won competitions and stuff. And, um, as a result of which I thought I should also have a career at the UN, cuz made sense and I liked it and I understood it. I went to university for political science at Tufts University. I had a very bizarre trajectory. I didn't do all too well. Um, and what I wasn't really unsure of is what was the, the next step. Like, what should I do? Should I try to kind of stick at it and continue studying this, or do something else? And it was total kind of kismet, but, um, I was working at a place called Cybersmith, so, it was one of these early internet cafes, but they also had like VR stations and really cool stuff to play with and things again, that made you excited because technology was accessible and it was democratized and you could get on board for very little money and just try and play and we were also giving like early classes for how to get different groups online. So we were teaching them about FTP and gopher of all things, um, I had my first job working for a banker's trust.

Jaya Baloo: Then afterwards I, um, decided to move to the Netherlands for at the then time, uh, my boyfriend and started working at a company called Unisource and when that disbanded, I then moved from there to KPN Telecom and at KPN Telecom, I was doing this Unisource thing for a while, and then moved over to the internal networks where it was all about riders, firewalls, and switches, and configuration management and users and you know, that kind of stuff. Um, and then, uh, when I felt like I could be doing a lot more and learning a lot more, I went from the internal networks to KPN International, where they were doing these kinds of projects of building brand new networks, but then for other telecommunications providers across the world, which was amazing.

Jaya Baloo: I've always been a bit of a junkie to learn new things and I've always been kind of driven by, um, I suppose, impact and when I did all these things like going all over the planet for these different network build projects at a certain point in time, I wanted to kind of settle down and have a family and so I was working with, uh, France Telecom Orange for several years, uh, working on group fraud and revenue assurance. Then I worked, uh, in the security consultancy part of, uh, Verizon professional services, uh, in the Netherlands and while I was there, um, I had a headhunter call me and ask if I wanted to be the, uh, CISO of KPN Telecom, which is the incumbent telecommunications provider in the Netherlands.

Jaya Baloo: I've always had like a sort of security thing running through, uh, my entire career and I love, um, working in the area and I basically took the job and at a certain point in time, after seven years, you kind of have to reinvent yourself or do something new because otherwise you take great ideas and you kill them by saying, no, we've tried that before, or that'll never work because blah, blah, blah and I think actually, um, just like people deserve new opportunities where they can grow and expand. I think companies also deserve people who think about new opportunities that could be possible and what if's and when I wasn't giving that, what if, uh, anymore to KPN, I thought it's, it's really time to try something else and to, you know, give someone else a shot at this and also be able to do good things somewhere else and create even more impact and Avast really appeals because they have an incredibly large user base, they do a lot of good work. They protect a whole sway of the population that can't necessarily afford paying for an AV every year, but still get the same value protection and that really speaks to me at so many levels and maybe it even goes back to the whole UN thing and the stuff that my parents were trying to do.

Jaya Baloo: So I am not a big fan of, like, traditional managers who just kind of manage stuff. I really believe in, uh, agreeing ambitious targets. And then I'm there if you need me, scream for help, when stuff goes wrong or you need a bit of, uh, nudging or bouncing ideas off the wall, that's fine. But I do not want to be on top of people. I think that, you know, we hire professionals, we hire seniors very often. Um, and I really expect them to kind of get on with it and only like break glass in case of emergency. I'm not a big fan of being micromanaged by anyone, um, that irritates the crap out of me. So I never wanna do that to someone else. So I really pretty much tend to leave people to get on with it. Uh, with the crazy ambition and the forward looking goals that we set in the beginning, um, and that they just achieve on objective.

Jaya Baloo: I lean on my team when I'm not, uh, such a happy camper only because they are probably my greatest source of inspiration and I think it's possible for everyone to hit a roadblock when they're staring at their own Naval. The best ideas come from like bouncing ideas off of each other, sharing within the group and then if I can't figure it out myself, that's why I hire these amazing individuals it's to help me figure it out. So I very often get outta my slump by, uh, having a little party in my slump with others.

Jaya Baloo: I think the biggest gift you can give yourself is this thing of constant learning. It's such a privilege to be able to kind of let your uh, curiosity have free rein. I would encourage you to do that, but I'm a little bit ADHD myself and bit teeny-tiny bit perfectionist. So I think, you know, being kind to yourself and encouraging that curious kid that you have in you, uh, while not being too hard on yourself, when you procrastinate a little bit. Be kind and appreciate what you are getting done and the effort you are making and the things that are going well, uh, rather than just, you know, the self-flagellation for the things you haven't.

Jaya Baloo: I really wanna make a difference and when I was younger, all I wanted to do was discover new things. I don't think I've done too much of that, but I'm maybe being mean to myself now. I hope that people think that I've done good things and made a difference and maybe I still have some time to discover something new.