Career Notes 2.26.23
Ep 138 | 2.26.23

Mike Fey: Highs are high and lows are low. [CEO]


Mike Fey: Hello, my name is, uh, Mike Fey. I'm a, um, CEO and co-founder of an organization called

Mike Fey: I was drawn to technology. My father brought a Timex Sinclair into our house at a young age, it was an early computer, and I just loved being around that. I found all of that so intriguing, and I think I had a predisposition to the math and sciences that I, over time became my core focus. I actually wanted to be an astronaut when I was in college. I did not achieve that objective, but I got a degree in engineering physics, um, specifically with the idea of, of chasing that. I really believed if you try to be an astronaut, there had to be a other couple jobs you could do, right? Then as I graduated, the need for scientific programmers was incredible. People that could understand the math and science and say pattern recognition, fingerprint matching, algorithms like that, but could also code. So I started my career merging those two things together.

Mike Fey: I started with Lockheed Martin, uh, that amazing engineering organization that it is, uh, worked there, worked on all sorts of fun projects and then along the way I started to get more interested in getting closer to the user and the customer on the software we were building and I ended up switching, transitioning from a developer to a systems engineer. Um, for those that don't know, a system engineer is kind of the technical counterpart of a sales team. So I went to a company called Mercury Interactive that built automated testing, at that time, most testing was by hand, uh, for software and we brought a product to market that allowed us to automate that and really change regression testing in a meaningful way. I worked my way up in that becoming, you know, head of pre-sales or system engineering, um, went to work at a company called, uh, McAfee. I was drawn to the people that were there and the opportunity to broaden myself beyond just system engineering, but into actual services and run a real P and L.

Mike Fey: So I took the jump for that, and then cybersecurity exploded and I was at the right place at the right time to really be in part of a fun journey, which was, you know, cybersecurity, moving from a couple black hats and white hats to a CISO, to the board. I worked my way up to be CTO of McAfee and then GM of the Enterprise business, um, as Intel acquired McAfee, got to do those same roles underneath Intel and then I stepped out of that and became president and COO of Blue Coat, um, which was a, uh, a software gateway, a swig as it were. We were acquired by Symantec. Uh, I was part of that acquisition, I ended up running, uh, Symantec as president and COO and then that led me to, uh, to founding my own cybersecurity company with a great friend of mine, Dan Amiga 

Mike Fey: I make sure that we can sell that product, that we enable our customers, and that we hear what our customers are telling us. So I speak to customers probably four to five hours a day at least, showing the product, discussing, you know, their needs, their challenges, how we can deliver upon those, and then bring that information back internally as well as, you know, spending time on fundraising and all the great things that you do as a startup CEO, to kind of keep the engine moving. When you're a small organization getting started, you know, you wear a lot of hats and, uh, it's a lot of fun to do that, but very tiring.

Mike Fey: Especially in a startup, the highs are very high and the lows are very low. You bring a product to market, it's not like when I worked at a larger company and it was one of many products, and if somebody didn't like it, fine, we'll go to the next one. When you found the company and somebody doesn't like what you're doing, it hurts you deeply. So you do get knocked down. Um, I think that's where the team you work with is so important. You look around, you see all these great people doing wonderful things, and you realize that you just need to rally and need to focus on the positive side of the equation, and that pulls me out and pushes me on. If you have a clear set of goals, you don't really have time to stare and, and regret, you have to go and execute. I think those two things in concert help you lift you up, but you definitely get knocked down. You, you, you definitely send some days a little bummed out, and then other days you think it's the best job in the entire world.

Mike Fey: Be curious, play with the tech, engage with the tech. When you understand what products do, why they do it, why decisions were made you, you develop a almost a superpower for understanding where you should spend your time and where you should spend your energy. So no matter where you're at in an organization, try to understand why it does what it does. And then watch those results, and then finally be very clear about your goals. I had amazing mentors that I was not shy about what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, what role I wanted next, and by being willing to, you know, state those. Even at times when it was awkward to admit, you know, my lofty expectations, they were able to guide me and level set me and tell me where I was weak and where I needed to excel and help me find opportunities to show I was ready or to grow, to be ready. So I think that honesty around those that, that you trust and about what you want to do and where you want to go, as embarrassing at times as it may be, is absolutely essential to getting anywhere in, in, uh, any.

Mike Fey: Cybersecurity is one of the most unique fields I think in IT, in that it redefines itself almost every couple years, if we take what we learned about cybersecurity 20 years ago, I'm not sure how much of that's relevant today or the last five years. So anybody that has a passion to learn and can learn quickly and is willing to listen to other bright and influential people can do well in cybersecurity because you're almost on a level playing field with everyone else. You'll be measured for what you've learned recently, not, uh, maybe more like a traditional field where 20 years of bridge building will teach you a lot. An organization will teach you a ton if you stay active and educated. It's the downside of our industry as well. If you get lazy, take your eye off the ball, you can become irrelevant really quick as well. So it's a really fun industry if you like to learn. It's aggravating if you don't.

Mike Fey: I hope my next stage is to take many of these amazing people I work with and go and try to change the world for the better on a different path. I've been able to do a lot of things, work with a lot of great people. It's been a lucrative process and very enjoyable. I hope that when this finishes, people are proud of where I take all these great resources that have been given to me to work with and truly have a real impact on the world beyond the tech.