Career Notes 5.14.23
Ep 149 | 5.14.23

Steve Benton: Mixing like a DJ. [VP]


Steve Benton: Hi, I'm Steve Benton and I'm Vice President of Anomali Threats Research at Anomali.

Steve Benton: I think I wanted to be a rockstar when I was growing up, but, um, unfortunately that couldn't happen. I do remember, however, uh, my first experience in seeing a computer, it was a computer that you built yourself and had one cave memory in it and it was, a friend of my brothers brought it right to our house. You had to sit it on a metal tray because it got so hot, um, when it was, was plugged in. And I just remember, um, writing a program that moved the dots across the screen and thinking that's just incredible. And that just began kind of a love for technology, and really, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life until I got my fingers on a keyboard and, um, I dunno, it was love.

Steve Benton: I talked about being a rockstar, you can realize I was a bit of a, a rebel, um, as, as a teenager. So what I used to do was sneak into the computer room before class and I used to put little program bombs onto the computer so they would randomly kick off during class making stupid noises out of the sign ship. Which I got thrown outta the class, uh, for doing, cause I wasn't taking the, the subject seriously enough. So I actually studied myself through the curriculum, uh, submitted my end of year, uh, project, et cetera, and came out with a straight A, um, and my computer science teacher said, there is no justice in this world. And he's right there is, there really isn't. I think it underlined my, my actual passion that I would be committed enough to study myself, um, even as a rebellious youth, um, in order to get the qualification I cared about.

Steve Benton: Well, I studied, um, information technology, uh, at Queens University. Very interesting degree because it was a mixture of, um, computer science and software engineering along with electrical engineering. So I came out of there as a software engineer and I joined British Telecommunications, uh, in their research labs, uh, writing real time software. So the first thing I wrote actually was a telephone banking application, which allowed people to interact with their bank accounts using speech and speech recognition. Um, and that was a real sort of groundbreaking pilot, uh, piece of technology that, that we were doing with a large bank, uh, here in the UK. So I started as a software engineer. I then moved into sort of software design and then moved on into delivery management. Um, and then interestingly, the whole .com boom kicked off and at that time, organizations wanted to be an internet service provider, an ISP, because it gave them intimacy, uh, with, with their customer base.

Steve Benton: I sort of realized that so much of what we are doing as individuals was now going online and it wasn't long before I rubbed shoulders with cybersecurity people. And then I got really interested in the whole aspects of cybersecurity and how, you know, what was a great benefit to society, could be used for criminality or worse, and just wanting to be part of how do we protect ourselves better? How do we continue to have the benefits of getting more and more involved in this digital world, uh, but not at, at the risk to ourselves or the risk of society, uh, and how to be on, on the, on the side of the good guys.

Steve Benton: What takes up a lot of my time is looking at the vast waves of intelligence, uh, that, that are right there, because what I recognized in my role, uh, at BT where I was chief Security officer, was that knowing the enemy as well as you need to know yourself was absolutely fundamental and so as I came off that operational rule, uh, with BT and joined Anomali, I did it for the, for the sake of how do we get the right intelligence into the hands of more people, uh, so that they can understand, uh, what they're up against. So a typical day for me is looking at the intelligence that we're bringing in, mixing it as it were to think of a slight, like DJs with a set of headphones on creating the right kind of mixes of intelligence for our clients. So it's a very exciting place, uh, to be honest, um, as you're looking at how to really accelerate the ability for organizations to keep pace with the security threats and know that they've actually got the grip on their security posture and under doing their very, very best to protect their organizations.

Steve Benton: I am very much a supportive leader. Um, I think greatness comes from a team that's comfortable with one another. Uh, that's a team that knows that whether, uh, we succeed or fail, we'll learn equally from both. And that nobody comes to work in order to do something wrong. Everyone comes to work to give of their best, and that's all I ever ask of of my team is we come in each day to do our best. Uh we'll learn every step of the way. And my role as a leader is to ensure that my people have everything they need in order to do a great job and go home each day feeling good about what they've done and looking forward to the next day.

Steve Benton: You have to handle adversity in the same way you handle success. Both of these things are things to, to learn from. Now in the midst of the adversity, those can be very hard hours, uh, to, to, to put in. Uh, but I think as that's where you know, what you've built in terms of a team, in terms of everybody looking out for one another is really important and sometimes, you know, we'd be in extremely stressful situations where there's bad things happening, but you're not yet clear on the full extent and the pressure is growing and growing and at the end of the day, you may not come out a hundred percent clean on this. There is going to be some level of harm. What you've got to focus on and what you can do, what you can control, and, you know, be open with your communication. So you're bringing people with you on the journey. And I think that kind of honesty and, and indicating to everyone that you're going to communicate clearly and honestly means that people enlist with you, recognizing that we are all in this together and we will come, all come out of this together and that's the best way to come through adversity, not on your own, but with a team. Um, and with a wider organization that knows that team is doing the very best they can do.

Steve Benton: I would like people to look back that I made a difference, uh, in the way that we approached security, in achieving the grip on the threat landscape and the grip on our security posture. That, uh, working with me was a place that you could innovate, that you could think of new ways to do things, and, uh, you would find that you had a leader that would support you to, to do so. And what I do find about our community here in security is we do build those long-term friend friendships. You build friendships through adversity, through the hard times and the good times. So I know that when I do, you know, hang up my hat, hang up my boots for way you wanna put it, um, I will have friendships that will last well beyond that.