Career Notes 7.9.23
Ep 157 | 7.9.23

Eric Tillman: A creative way into cyber. [Intelligence]


Eric Tillman: Hello, I am Eric Tillman and I'm the Chief Intelligence Officer at N2K Networks.

Eric Tillman: When I was a kid, I wanted to be the usual astronaut, space, you know, alien and, you know, traveler. I eventually settled on being an artist. I had some people in my life that thought that perhaps I might want to rethink being a starving artist as a career choice and what I ended up doing was combining my love of technology, which came from being in the eighties and growing up with the promise of the future of video games and all of what we were promised in terms of jetpacks and flying cars, and computer,animation,turned into my, you know, my effort to merge my interests in creation of, three dimensional visual art with something that was kind of techy and, that is how I came to be in a intelligence career rather than being a starving artist or a 3D computer animator.

Eric Tillman: Taking Chinese in the Navy is a pretty significant endeavor, from a training perspective. It's to learn any language from nothing to fluency is something that definitely takes a long time, even if you're not somebody who's already pretty skilled at learning new languages and incorporating them, you know, in your brain. The course length for languages like that is about 63 weeks at the Language School in Monterey. Then at the time, and they don't do this anymore, but at the time they sent us linguists to a secondary technical school in Texas for another six months. So they mandated that people who were going to take these languages had to then extend their initial contract up to six years. So I extended my Initial tour to six years and went to Hawaii and I worked for a, an entity, naval security group. At one point working on a midnight shift in this facility someone walked downstairs into our section and on that entire floor and this was a Navy senior chief looking for people to volunteer to go ride submarines and then he got about three people down and I looked around me during my, you know, midnight shift in a facility under the ground and said, wait a minute, I actually do think that I, I might want to try this. So thus began my next phase of of time in the Navy.

Eric Tillman: So as the 10 year mark during active duty approached I started to ask myself the questions that probably everybody else in a similar situation ever asked themselves and that is, am I gonna stick this out for 20 years and retire or am I going to find something else to do that is meaningful to me personally and maybe takes advantage of the 10 years that I have spent in already. That's why I ended up leaving at the end of the day, not because I disliked the Navy. I really enjoyed it, met some of the most incredible people in my career during that time, met my wife and absolutely adored the, the work that I did. But I thought I could do something bigger. So I left and moved to the Washington DC area and started working as a defense contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton, supporting the Defense Intelligence Agency, and their Office of Cyber Threat Analysis. That's where I began doing strategic intelligence analysis. There, and I was there for five or six years. I supported some counterintelligence missions. I supported some more operational things as well. But it was eye opening and it was a wonderful, wonderful experience for me to be able to hone my own existing craft as an intelligence analyst. That is also where I met Simone Petrella, who is the president here at N2K Networks. We, you know, had a very positive relationship right from the start. I ended up leaving Booz Allen Hamilton to go join Lockheed Martin supporting the, the Department of Defense's Cyber Crime Center.

Eric Tillman: I worked another sort of counterintelligence and law enforcement support mission using language, but also using cyber operational skills. I worked there for six years, almost. And then we were getting close to the pandemic and when the pandemic hit, I was trying to make a decision about whether or not to stay with government or to again, go where the action is and work in private industry and that's what I ended up doing. So I left that contract with Lockheed Martin and left the DC three to go work at Okta. So I worked there as a principal intelligence analyst, as a, as a principal threat researcher, for about three years and it was really, again, eye-opening for me to be a part of some of those discussions and some of those groups where people were struggling with these questions of how to navigate legal restrictions in sharing information as well as the need to share in order to be better protected and to protect yourself and to protect others and I think, you know, that's kind of what led me to N2K because that is one of the things that we do here, is find ways to share information, to share knowledge, to find common ground that is pertinent and relevant to our listeners and our readers, and our learners, no matter where they are, no matter who they are, what part of an organization they might be sitting in the content that we offer is relevant to all of them.

Eric Tillman: I think one thing to remember is that this industry is, there is something for everyone here. It doesn't matter where you came from, whether you are a computer science student and you've been researching hacker techniques, you know, for as long as you can remember. Or you were an art student and you had not a shred of technical ability or even you, you never even thought that this might be a way that you might go. I came to this from understanding the nature, the relationships between writer and reader and understanding how to move information that w from place to place that was useful to who was consuming it, but that's not how everyone gets into cyber. A lot of people get here from a very technical background and it really almost doesn't matter where you came from, there is something in cybersecurity that takes advantage of the skills that you bring to the table and either way, there's plenty of room here for everyone. 

Eric Tillman: My hope is that, if I'm not there anymore that people will say, ah, I'm glad that he helped set things up the way that they are now and that they have the tools to do that again if needed. Right? So that even if I'm not the one driving it, if change is needed, if organizational changes needed, if workflows need to be adjusted, people who will feel comfortable doing that because they know that it's coming from a place of enriching those relationships and making everything work better.