Career Notes 12.6.20
Ep 27 | 12.6.20

Ron Brash: Problem fixer in critical infrastructure. [OT]


Ron Brash: I'm Ron Brash. I'm Director of Cyber Security Insights at Verve Industrial, but I'd like to be more preferred as an industrial cybersecurity geek.

Ron Brash: Well, if I go back pretty far, right, my family, we were always around, you know, blue collar jobs, logging, industrial fishing. And so I kind of, I guess, wanted to be an engineer when I was younger, roughly around, I would say grade 10, when I was about 14 years old, maybe 13. I started looking at computers and doing a lot more with them. I've always grew up with computers. My parents had 286s, 386s, you know, all of that stuff that very few people had. I really liked how what you could do with them at the time. Right. Like, you know, not many things in life you can beat with a sledgehammer until it works properly. So I learned that programming I could get what I wanted. I also realized that it's a very frail process and it's easy to manipulate.

Ron Brash: Little did I know that one of my best friends at the time, who's the son of a gentleman named Eric Byers, who's one of the grandfathers, the original gangster of industrial cybersecurity, was one of the four leaders of of this whole realm that I'm in now. And he'd heard that I was good with computers. And one day I was over at their house and he said, hey, would you like to have a practicum or let's have an interview? And I said, "Yeah, you know what? I would love to." The rest is history.

Ron Brash: When I started for for Eric Byers, this was at Tofino Security, I started off kind of doing technical testing and just, you know, you start at the bottom, right? You you work your way through tasks and you go upwards. And I, you know, I had a quick aptitude for that and doing technical testing or breaking things. So I, I kind of outgrew that pretty quick. And I wanted to become a developer. So I started doing more and more advanced tasks. While I was working for Eric, and I continue to work for Eric, I went and skipped two years of school and went into my third year of university. Went got a bachelor's and then I started looking a little farther ahead and I said, you know, I want I want more. So I researched a bunch of universities and I found another one in Montreal, which is Concordia University. And I found a great advisor that was trying to do software defined networking and industrial critical infrastructure so that I moved to Montreal basically. And then I got my master's in 2017. And this is where I took a complete kind of sidetrack from industrial cybersecurity for a little bit.

Ron Brash: I went into neuroscience. Montreal is actually a bit of a hotspot for for machine learning. And I hate the word AI but AI and I got involved with some people and I was like, you know, let's let's do a consultancy for that. So for the next three years, I was running five employees in Montreal. I've gotten two embedded neuroscience devices to market with obviously my my partners at the time where I can take all the credit for that. And I learned a lot of stuff. And then roughly when Trump came to power, a lot of the larger American companies that we were dealing with felt were very hesitant to to fund a Canadian company. Right? And then all the work just dried up.

Ron Brash: I took a little bit of a hiatus after having to take a little bit of a break from work. It was I was struggling pretty hard and Eric Byers kind of came out again and said, hey, "Ron, are you looking for something else in us?" Kind of poking my head up out of the sand and said, "well, yes, of course I probably am." And then it turns out then I jumped over to Verve Industrial where I am now. And I've been there for probably a year and a half, I believe now. I've been working on a little bit of customer mandates, doing research, helping management, helping the team with all of my experience in the past. And we're moving forward.

Ron Brash: I describe myself as someone who's a problem fixer in critical infrastructure. And I say to them, so what does that mean? Well, it means that I go and work with customers and I work with devices that make power or make water or, you know, pick, pick, whatever that maybe that person is more familiar with. And I say, you know, that those things run a bunch of electronics and computers inside of them and they need to be updated or managed in a secure way, just like you would for your regular computer or cell phone. Obviously more complicated than that. And it's in a realm where I can't just shut down, let's say, a refinery when I need to apply a piece of software as a patch. I said, you know, can you imagine shutting down a refinery? And they say, no. I said, well, there you go.

Ron Brash: Promoting yourself isn't necessarily a like a selfish act, promoting yourself and what you're working on and what you believe in, especially if it's in this type of world. Right? Where we need we need the lights on, you know, the mission of, you know, the social needs of society, which depend on Internet, electrical, and so on and so on. If you want your research to be impactful and make change and ensure that those necessities are there on a daily basis, you have to help make that research accessible to others. And I found that being true and honest to others, just as you know, and putting yourself in the shoes of the asset owners as you're talking about these issues get you a lot of respect, even if people don't necessarily agree with you and that that's something that I think that's really, really important. I mean, my goal is to retire in the next four or five years and maybe my work won't be my mark I leave on the world, but heaven is the memories that you leave on earth. And heaven only exists as long as those memories are present on Earth. So if you have a family that remembers you or friends, that's your heaven, that's your that's your immortality. And that's kind of what I want.