Career Notes 11.22.20
Ep 25 | 11.22.20

James Hadley: Spend time on what interests you. [CEO]


James Hadley: I'm James Hadley, Founder and CEO of Immersive Labs.

James Hadley: I was given a computer by my dad when I was about eight or nine years old and after that became a bit of an addict in terms of geeking out. So first of all, programming, but then also trying to find ways of doing things that you shouldn't do, be it try to get to programs that should have been, you know, not have the capacity to run or to try and find ways of getting to different parts of the operating system that might have been blocked. So when I was at school, they didn't really have much in the way of computer studies, either as a qualification or as a side subject. So at 16, I went to college and specialized and did a sort of 2-year course in computer studies. And it was after that that I applied for and joined GCHQ.

James Hadley: I spent the next 10 to 15 years consulting across government departments, the U.K. Ministry of Defense and some commercial organizations, including sort of spinouts from fair trading platform. And then it was prior to starting Immersive Labs where I had my probably my most fundamental career change, which is I became an instructor. I was teaching cybersecurity as part of the GCHQ cyber summer school.

James Hadley: Well, what I identified was academic background had very little bearing or influence on how individuals developed over the course of the summer school, and I realized that passive classroom-based learning doesn't really suit the people or the pace of cybersecurity. And that's because the content is dated very quickly and it's quite one-dimensional so it doesn't really get the creative minds in the room engaging.

James Hadley: I think I am a very driven individual. One of the things I'm most proud of is Immersive Labs is the speed of which we've grown over the last three and a half years in the marketplace. So I'd say I was very driven, very fast, but also very caring as an individual.

James Hadley: My favorite part of what we do is speed. So we react to what's happening in the world very quickly. So, for example, within four hours of WannaCry, it's in the headlines and crippling the National Health Service here in the U.K., we were able to get a practical hands-on copy of that lab to all of our customers within four hours. So I think the thing I'm most proud of is the speed of which we can react to helping our customers.

James Hadley: As solo founder, it's quite a lonely experience building a technology company because you essentially have to learn everything, everything across the whole organization yourself for the first time, be it sales, marketing, customer success, technology, support, investment, for example, share auctions, everything that needs doing in the company is the first one that you're doing it. And I'd say the biggest challenge is probably doing it alone.

James Hadley: Use the Internet, everything to get into cybersecurity is available on the Internet. It's free to acquire and learn. Don't get hung up or focused on certifications for me and for the Immersive Labs' value proposition, certifications based on multiple choice exams aren't a true barometer or evidence of capability, and instead spending time on what actually interests you, for example, blog posts or research, and then try and get that across to prospective employers, because that will go a lot further than pieces of paper. I think now in the world we live in, everything works. It's quite seamless. So, for example, take cloud computing or uploading files or sending emails. Everything works. And that's because obviously computing is a global worldwide, accessible item for the majority of developed countries.

James Hadley: When I was younger or going back 20, 30 years, you could actually fix a lot of the things yourself because you had to or something that didn't exist, you had to create it because it wasn't ubiquitous. And I think because things don't work, you have to apply that troubleshooting and perseverance mindset to achieve your outcomes. Where it is now, because the world is so interconnected and so global, you rarely get a chance to have to troubleshoot or fix something, because if it doesn't, you probably find just another supplier or another device to use in order to achieve your outcomes. There was no copying and pasting of code from the Internet. You had to figure it out yourself.