Career Notes 4.30.23
Ep 147 | 4.30.23

Perry Carpenter: Turning composition into computing. [Strategy]


Perry Carpenter: Hi, my name is Perry Carpenter and I am the Chief Evangelist and Strategy Officer for a security training company called KnowBe4.

Perry Carpenter: I had no idea what I wanted to be when I was growing up. I started out really, really focused on music. I was a guy that played multiple instruments. I played keyboard and guitar and bass, a little bit of drums and some experimental instruments. All throughout that though, there was this, component where I was also very interested in technology and so I would, uh, convince my parents to buy me the newest computer gadgets that I could get at the time and this was back in the, the eighties. So, I focused a lot on one of my hobbies being computers, but it was only later on after I kind of tried a few other things in college that I realized that, uh, computing and then specifically security was where I wanted to spend my time and effort.

Perry Carpenter: I think for me, when it was the kind of the connection between music and computing is that whenever you're kind of joining things together or at a, a musical scale to make chords, or whenever you're adding different, um, instruments and octaves together or timbers together to get some kind of bigger result. It is very similar to what you can do in computing environments when you're putting code together, um, and you're adding new, you know, other libraries to that, or you're enabling other things that become more than the simple components that you've started with, and I think, um, you do see a little bit of a symphony in the way that computing and environments work together.

Perry Carpenter: So I started, uh, my college years as a music major specifically in composition. Being a composition major and being a music major in general requires way more discipline than I was capable of and was probably tapping me out creatively and talent wise as well. So I was exploring languages and thinking about what I wanted to do there, I had a really interesting discussion with a professor cuz I was thinking, Hey, after college, if I want to explore language, maybe I could go be a linguist and I had a professor that said, that's a great idea, other than the fact that you're gonna have to wait for somebody to die to get to get a job because it's just not a populated field. So I then looked at my happy liberal arts degrees that I had, and said, what do I do now? Ultimately decided to go to law school and realized that similar to music, my first choice and what I wanted to do for a master's program was way off. Um, I ended up taking an internship in computer programming, uh, at a company called JB Hunt simultaneously starting to work on a master's degree in computer science.

Perry Carpenter: So ultimately that internship paid off really well. Um, I was there doing research and development. And that was like, um, really interesting work back then and then ultimately JB Hunt decided to hire me, um, without me needing to complete my Master's degree and just kind of pay me what they would give me if I'd completed that. And then I got hired out of JB Hunt by Walmart in order to create an email system that they plan to use in their stores and clubs and got hired. Day one in Walmart, got pulled out of the line essentially and assigned to a very large project team creating because that was the very beginning of the .com boom, and Amazon was, uh, really big up and comer back then, and Walmart wanted an answer to that.

Perry Carpenter: We finally launched Sam's and then got, uh, brought back over to the project that I was originally hired for, which was to write, uh, email systems for the stores and clubs. Spent, uh, a while doing that, as you can imagine. So that working on email was my introduction into security, um, by way of identity management. And so when I was, uh, doing that, it quickly grew from security to identity and access management and from identity and access management to, uh, cybersecurity proper. After Walmart, I ended up going to a company called Alltel and doing more security work and getting a, uh, a real love for the human side of cybersecurity that typically gets neglected. And so from Alltel, I went to, uh, Gartner Research and focused on security awareness and training research and CISO mentorship, and then ultimately ended up, uh, where I work for KnowBe4 now, which is a security awareness vendor that I attract and, uh, and advise back when I was at Gartner.

Perry Carpenter: Adversity comes in a lot of different forms. Sometimes adversity is just disappointment that I've not been able to do the thing that I hope that I could do. Whether that's a limiting factor with my personal capabilities or whether that is a thing that for some reason doesn't align with whatever organization I'm working for, um, is hoping to accomplish. Or whether there's, you know, some form of, um, thing that's totally outside anybody's control, I think adversity comes at us all. And the way that we can get out of the potential emotional spiral that comes with that, the way that I get out of that is I start to look at the bigger picture, and luckily for those of us in security, there is a cause that we're working towards. There's a purpose that we've given our lives to, which is helping to create a more secure world through reducing risk. So it is kind of zooming out and then saying, all right, um, maybe this one thing didn't work out, but how can I now move forward in a way that will help accomplish that cause and who can I bring alongside that can help us accomplish that?

Perry Carpenter: One of my major goals here is to release a body of work. And help other people so that ultimately when you start to think about the human side of security, um, there is a set of learnings, a set of processes, uh, a support system that will ultimately raise all boats regardless of, uh, the vendor or the tool set that people are using. I want to be somebody who is advocating for ways that we can accomplish this that don't necessarily tie to a vendor. And yeah, the, the things that I do, the, um, the processes that I help build or the learnings that I help uncover might be applied in a product in some way through the vendor that, that I'm working for. But in general, you can, you can extract those learnings and apply those in several different ways throughout the industry or regardless of the vendor that's there. I think that that's a, a value that, um, many people in my role like to bring when, when you're kind of in this evangelist role or this strategy, uh, role, um, you are really serving something greater than the organization that you're working for.