Career Notes 12.4.22
Ep 128 | 12.4.22

Rohit Dhamankar: Never close doors prematurely. [Threat Intelligence]


Rohit Dhamankar: My name is Rohit Dhamankar. I am VP of Threat Intelligence at Alert Logic and Product Strategy at HelpSystems.

Rohit Dhamankar: In India there were only two things that people were interested into do. Either you become an engineer or you become a doctor. Those were the only two professions I guess, that were considered lucrative. When I grew up, so I was always told by my parents saying that you should become an So I think I had a natural aptitude towards math and science. Uh, and I love, used to love physics, and that is what I decided to do. Um, when I passed my high school, I enrolled in one of the most prestigious institutes in India and I did a masters in physics.

Rohit Dhamankar: So when I got out of my masters in India, I came actually to the United States to pursue a PhD in physics. So that is what I came initially for, not for cyber security. I guess it was an interesting event, I had actually put my resume in for, uh, the job fair for summer because during the summers there was no support available in terms of, uh, assistantships at UT Austin and I got a call from Cisco initially, uh, the networking giant at that time, and Cisco really was a very big name in early 2000's. So they call me and in fact, I was actually stupid enough to return a reply saying that, well, your company seems to do networking, so I don't know what you are calling me for. Um, it so happened that they called back again and told me that we don't need you for networking, we need you for your math background, specifically applied for cybersecurity, and that's how I got into my internship at Cisco.

Rohit Dhamankar: That's one of the lessons that I have learned that people should not close any doors prematurely, at least explore the opportunity. So once I got an internship actually at Cisco, it was a very interesting project for me. Basically they were trying to develop intrusion detection systems that is a network based intrusion detection system. And, uh, I loved that what I was doing there, uh, from mathematical modeling of traffic that they needed and, uh, then they made me an offer, which I couldn't refuse to just join them straight. So I kind of stopped my PhD, got out with a Masters and joined Cisco.

Rohit Dhamankar: I was almost, uh, forced out of Cisco to seek some other smaller place, uh, due to some immigration complications, uh, at that time. Uh, and, uh, I chose startup at that time, which was called a TippingPoint. And it was again, really a fantastic career path, working in a startup and seeing that startup really being successful. So when I joined at 2002, we were hardly making any revenue. We were acquired by Threecom in 2005 for close to 500 million dollars, which was a big amount in 2005. I had a chance as a result of it to really go globally, and the other part for me was I was able to travel really globally, uh, meet a lot of customers, uh, give a lot of presentations along with sales and marketing. So completely new experiences and the experience for working for a startup was extremely valuable because you wear so many hats working in a startup that you get to know a lot of different areas.

Rohit Dhamankar: Um, that trend of mind continued. Before I joined Alert Logic, uh, four years back, uh, I was very interested in seeing from how do I transition myself from completely a product based company and really point solution startups into a more, uh, service based ecosystem where you are trying to kind of solve a much bigger problem and that's what attracted to me this space, and that's where I'm still here 

Rohit Dhamankar: So I'm actually wearing currently twin hats. I'm wearing a hat from Threat Intelligence site for Alert Logic. I'm also wearing a hat from Product Strategy for HelpSystems where I'm involved in actually creating the next generation of threat intelligence sharing platform within HelpSystems, that's the parent company. So from Alert Logic site, it's basically again, I have, of course, a number of teams that are reporting into, so I'm responsible directly for the management. Uh, I wanna make sure that I know all the people in my team. So I actually am proud that I know even two levels down, everybody um, personally. Um, so I take a lot of time just making sure that the team is working cohesively, the team is working, uh, with a vision that they have been given, uh, and kind of just making sure that the team really functions very well. That's one of my primary, uh, you know, tasks right now. At the same time, I also dabble into various, uh, I would say product side or technology side, uh, discussions. And these are mainly focused on saying, what do we do going forward in the future? What are our customers facing problems most with today, and how can we solve those problems? That takes up my rest of the time.

Rohit Dhamankar: I would say that I consider myself, uh, you can call it more like a servant leadership. Uh, at the same time, I like to lead from the middle, and this is specifically true of people who are working in cyber security. People come from all different experiences. Like today, my team is comprised of data scientists, deep security researchers, reverse engineers, vulnerability researchers, automation engineers, and it is very essential to kind of hear these people out very well as to what are they trying to convey at whatever technical depth they're trying to convey and, and bring all that perspective together before one can make a very informed decision, and then make sure that the group moves together in that direction and so that's almost, I would say, leading from the middle instead of kind of being really, uh, upfront with ideas only from yourself or, uh, from the next level up in the organization. Uh, so that really does not work, especially for a talented cybersecurity group.

Rohit Dhamankar: I would say am still overcoming at times, it is hard sometimes to message, uh, to a wider audience that you can be both navigating the business side of the house as well as, you know, a bunch of technologies that you have learned in the past. People try to generally pigeonhole you into one or two places. So I think it's essential to me, one of the things that I have learned over time is really, I don't pigeonhole any of my employees into any buckets. Everybody is individual. I try to understand what their main core strengths are, um, and I try to kind of gather that, um, in terms of their contributions, uh, their thoughts, et cetera, and make sure that we can make a cohesive hole out of it. One of my major themes, uh, for my team is I would like my team to be happy and if they ever think about me in the future, I hope they will answer positively on my saying, there was a leader who listened to them, there was a leader who made difference to their lives, and lastly, here is a leader who made them happy when they came to work.