Career Notes 11.7.21
Ep 74 | 11.7.21

Jamil Jaffer: You should run towards risk. [Strategy]


Jamil Jaffer: Jamil Jaffer. I'm Senior Vice President at IronNet Cybersecurity for strategy, partnerships, and corporate development to fill out the full detailed title. 

Jamil Jaffer: I come from a family where my dad came to the US with a few hundred dollars in his pocket. He didn't have a job. He had a bachelor's degree, yes, but from the University of East Africa, Dar es Salaam. We're ethically Indian, but three generations of my family grew up in East Africa. My dad got a job working first at the University of Toronto, then he moved to LA and got a job at UCLA. He was one of these people who just walked in and said, look, you want, hire me. I'm going to work my butt off for you and I'm going to do good things. Both my mom and dad gave me that work ethic. 

Jamil Jaffer: I'm a child of the eighties. In 1984, I got my first computer. It was a Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer, the so-called Trash-80. 4K of onboard RAM, four kilobytes. We upgraded to 16 kilobytes to me and my dad and we were the talk of the Rainbow Computer Club in Santa Monica. What are you going to do at 16 K of onboard RAM? Oh my God. It's so much memory.  

Jamil Jaffer: I paid my way through college with computer support. I did computer support at UCLA for the life sciences department, for the athletics department. I crawled through ceilings running 10BASE-T cable and doing fiber punch down blocks. I've always had sort of technology in my heart, even though I did government, I did politics, I did law for awhile. So this has always been a part of what I've been into. 

Jamil Jaffer: I went to UCLA for college, polisci/ econ, but did all that computer support. Um, I had a chance to go work on some campaigns and on Capitol hill for a great Congressman from Virginia, Bob Goodlatte. People might remember him because he was the one that freed up the sale of strong encryption that really has allowed us, frankly, to use the kind of strong encryption we need on our web browsersand the like to really protect our financial transactions. I went off to law school at the University of Chicago. I worked for a federal judge. I worked at a law firm. I worked in the government, at the Justice Department, and then I had this amazing opportunity to go work at the newest division at the Justice Department, the National Security division. This is a division created after 9/11 to bring together the counter-terrorism, counterespionage people, and the people that did foreign intelligence surveillance. And at this time, the real new way of doing foreign intelligence surveillance as, now we've all started talking about post-Snowden right, was on in the cyber domain so I was able to take my knowledge and skills in the cyber domain and apply them in a very real practical way to helping identify terrorists, identify spies and the like, working with our lawyers and our operators, the FBI, and the NSA to really engage in some really cool operations, some of which have now been declassified. I had a chance to go into the White House Counsel's office and the Bush administration. There I had a chance to work on President Bush's Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative. Then went back to being a regular work-a-day lawyer, sorta got tired of that pretty quick and ended up going to the House Intelligence Committee where I worked on the Cyber Information Sharing legislation for Mike Rogers, and then the Senate foreign relations committee, and now IronNet. And by the way, that sounds like a lot of jobs. That has been a lot of jobs. IronNet Cybersecurity has been the longest job I've ever had at almost seven years, it is three times more than the longest job I ever had before this so I've loved it here. We're having a great time with General Alexander and the whole team, Bill Welsh, our new co-CEO. It's been an awesome time, and really pumped about what we're doing as we start thinking about what's next and the next iteration for IronNet.  

Jamil Jaffer: Adversity has happened in life, but you gotta run at those things. To me, you know, I like risk. I think risk is something that a lot of people shy away from. A lot of lawyers are very risk averse. And that's why I describe myself as a recovering lawyer, because I think risk aversion is a mistake. For people who are driven and smart and excited about what they're doing, frankly, if you're passionate about something, you love it, you should run towards risk. Risk is your friend. You're gonna be successful at it. And if you're not successful it and you struggle, you're going to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get better. And so I look at a lot of my friends and colleagues and say, "Hey, you've got amazing opportunities. Are you having a challenge? Great run at it. If you fail, get up, dust yourself off and run at it again." 

Jamil Jaffer: Cybersecurity could not be a more exciting environment to get into. It is a rare industry that has had a 0% unemployment rate for the last decade. I don't think there's any other industry in the space where there's that kind of low unemployment rate because there's an over demand for people, and under supply. And so if you're thinking about getting the cybersecurity and you want to change your career, or you want to go get a degree, or you're a young person, thinking about what should I do in college. If you're excited about this. And I think really you really got to be passionate about it. You gotta be into it. If you're into it, and you want to do it, make the leap, do it. There's a ton of jobs. There's a ton of opportunity. I'm a career switcher, right? I'm a, I'm a lawyer. I was in the government and yeah, I had cyber elements of my background, you know, the technology stuff that I did growing up and the technology stuff I did as a lawyer. I made a hard switch when I came to IronNet, part of my deal was I'm not going to do any legal work for the company. I said, look, you know, I, I want to be a leader in the business space. I've been a lawyer. I've been there, done that. It's all about bringing together people to reach a common mission. That's what IronNet's about as a company, this idea of collective defense. That's what I'm about as a person.  

Jamil Jaffer: If you can bring people together and solve a common problem, I think that's what it's all about, and that should be the goal and, run hard at things, and just have fun. I want people to think that here was a guy who ran hard at problems. Didn't shy away from tough problems. Worked hard on them. Brought people together to find a solution, and got things done. If people can say that about me, I'll be happy at the end of the day.