Career Notes 12.3.23
Ep 178 | 12.3.23

Bernard Brantley: Tomorrow is a new day. [CISO]


Bernard Brantley: Hi, my name's Bernard Brantley. I'm CISO at Corelight.

Bernard Brantley: Interestingly enough, as a kid growing up, I wanted to be a fighter pilot. So I saw Iron Eagle when I was probably six or seven years old and thought it was the absolute coolest thing that I could do. What I later learned was that I had a stigmatism, which was limiting for me to become a military aviator and that changed the kind of dynamic and situation in my life to where it's say, "hey, I now have no idea what I want to be when I grow up."

Bernard Brantley: In high school I was really attracted to math, uh, social studies, because I was really interested in the world around me, you know, coming from the city of Detroit, I hadn't traveled a whole bunch, so learning what else was out there was very interesting and when I got to college, um, I kind of tracked that same path uh, I studied economics, I also studied civil engineering. It was kind of interesting to say that had I have completed West Point, I would've been a economics major with a civil engineering minor, which probably are not two more disparate things to go after, uh, from an education perspective, but those are the types of things that held my interest. 

Bernard Brantley: College was an interesting time. I wanted to be an aviator and that is all that I wanted to be when it came to make my decision for college and I learned, uh, that I could not be an aviator for context, I had been accepted to the United States Air Force Academy, United States Naval Academy, as well as the United States Military Academy, thinking that the naval and air force would have been my choices so that I could go be an aviator. It kind of became a, "oh no, I have no idea what I'm going to do," and so I selected West point, um, so I went into college without a full understanding of what going to the military academy meant or what that would look like and to be quite frank, I absolutely hated the experience, which is a large contributor to why I did not finish there. Since then, I have yet to complete college. I've got some things in the works now, uh, to see that through and then kind of move on to a more advanced degree. But, uh, all in all, my college experience, while rewarding and fruitful, was not great for me from a, a kind of personal aspect.

Bernard Brantley: Looking back, if I had understood the path that I wanted to take through life, uh, maybe had some more clear understanding of what opportunities I had via the military, whether that be in signal service or in, uh, infantry or in aviation, uh, that was not flying jets, I probably would have looked at things differently, but given that, you know, I'm not doing what I wanted to do. I had no path to doing what I wanted to do. I believe that that would have been, you know, common, regardless of whether I had to go into the military academy or regular college, given that I had no idea what I was going to do after I got done, so I didn't see the point in continuing.

Bernard Brantley: My last job before I got into tech was an assistant manager at Lady Foot Locker and you're saying, how the heck did he go from United States Military Academy to Lady Foot Locker? Uh, and the answer is again, no real clear guidance on where it was I wanted to go or what I wanted to be. The lady footlocker experience was not one that I'd recommend to anyone, for me, that just was not it and I figured I needed to go do something different. At that time did not have access to a wifi network. I heard that they were able to be audited and I wanted to learn how to do that. So I logged into a computer, I started searching the web, I found the backtrack operating system. I tried to figure out how to install that on a laptop. It took me six or seven tries and then I went about learning some of the, um, wireless auditing tools such as Aircrack NG and AeroDump NG and I got really involved in what Linux and the Linux operating system meant not only for my immediate task, but it was like, I'm able to kind of go and learn and poke at things and figure stuff out and if I don't know what I have man pages to help me, and there really are no mistakes because it's just a continuous learning experience. Luckily I was able to take that with a couple of classes at a community college and I was going through Craigslist and saw an ad for a data center support technician, and I had no idea what that meant, but it said needs Linux experience. And I sent him my resume and I got a call and there's where I started nighttime support at a data center.

Bernard Brantley: So I always had this belief that, when I got my first data center job and I knew what kind of salaries folks could command in tech, I took a picture of a sailboat and I pasted that up on my background. I said, I'm going to figure out a route to get that boat and in each of the positions that I held I looked up to the next level or maybe the level above that and said um, i'm sure that person is at an earning level and at a technical level much greater than I am now, but I think I can get there. Let me go learn everything that that person knows so that if ever asked a question I can show that I'm the person that they want to bring into their organization or bring into their team and ultimately that I could be in that succession plan. And so moving from the kind of lower, lower on the rung, uh, nighttime tech support up and through systems administration and into network security analyst, it was always that, let me see what's there above me, which ultimately resulted in me getting aligned with directors and principles at both the Microsoft and Amazon scales, which gave me the robust set of skills required for Corelight to come say we're looking for a CISO, would you like to interview?

Bernard Brantley: I'd like to think I'm pretty good at handling adversity. Uh, I've been through quite a bit in my life, in multiple different periods for multiple different reasons. Some self inflicted, others not. Um, I've come to the point of, uh, overall acknowledgement, like, it doesn't matter what it is. What does it take for me to get to the point of acknowledging that I own this problem, and once that acknowledgement happens, what are we going to go do to solve it? So I spend minimum time trying to like spin my wheels or, kind of stay in frustration or a down period and, and really, uh, try as quickly as possible to move from, "hey, this was a tough day" to, to, into, "all right, uh, this was a tough day because maybe I didn't commit enough time in this area, or maybe I could have had a bit better conversation with this person." So what am I going to do to solve it and get right back into, these are my objectives and goals for the next day or the next period to ensure that I correct whatever reasoning there was for me having that type of day and ensure that not only do I not experience it again, but my teams or the folks that are involved in that are better prepped to handle it in the future and ultimately remove that as, you know, one of those things that happens within the organization.