Career Notes 11.21.21
Ep 76 | 11.21.21

MK Palmore: Lead from where you stand. [CISO]


MK Palmore: MK Palmore. Director, Office of the CISO, Google Cloud. 

MK Palmore: Like many kids that grew up in the era that I grew up in, I was fascinated by science fiction, space, and all things electronic. I thought at one point in my life that I might want to be an astronaut. It was during that phase that I discovered that the place that I wanted to go to college, the U S Naval Academy, at the time and I think still does, has the most, uh, astronauts within the qualified realm there at NASA. 

MK Palmore: I was one of the first kids in my neighborhood to have an Atari system. I had the Commodore 64 computer, like most folks and started programming at a very, very young age around BASIC. But my journey was was sort of interrupted as I finally went into college and I ultimately did not pursue computing as a major. 

MK Palmore: I had, as a young African-American boy growing up in Southeast Washington, DC had no reason to believe that I was going to be able to attend the Naval Academy, but I identified it as the only place I wanted to go to school when I was around the sixth or seventh grade. I set my sights on it and everything that I did in middle school and high school was in pursuit of that goal. And I'm lucky I achieved it. I'd probably be on someone's couch right now getting counseling, had I not. 

MK Palmore: I had an interesting path. I only applied to two colleges that was the Naval Academy and West Point. The Naval Academy decided they wanted to send me to the Naval Academy Prep School, which at the time was located in Newport, Rhode Island. it was a good year of transition. It got you acclimated academically, and, uh, helped you to focus in on some of the other aspects of service academy life, uh, that by the time you get there as a plebe come as second nature to you. But it was a impactful experience probably still to this day, the most impactful educational experience, I've had to date. I made the, at the time, rather unique decision that I wanted to be a Marine. So I graduated from Annapolis and was commissioned a second Lieutenant in the US Marines. I was a logistician in the Marine Corps. I was one of the lucky guys who had an opportunity to serve with a very, very large apparatus in the Marine Corps Air Wing. The military came very natural to me in terms of the environment, the expectations, the lifestyle, it was all something that I showed a very early attraction to and, I'm very happy that I had the opportunity to serve as an officer in the Marines. 

MK Palmore: I was looking for an additional transition and frankly, without explicit mentorship during my time as a young officer in the Marines, I began looking at other opportunities. I was thinking about pursuing a law degree, and, as part of a conversation with a close friend I went to the Naval Academy with, I began looking specifically at the FBI as a potential option. I literally walked into the FBI office in San Diego, which is where I was stationed at the time. They were super interested in me. I was interested in them and lo and behold, nine months later, I was back at Quantico training to be an FBI agent.  

MK Palmore: I had the opportunity over the course of that career through the benefit of mentors and others to transition into different areas of responsibility and about mid career, that's when I got my first inkling of a cybersecurity investigation, which was still relatively new to the Bureau at the time. My youthful interest in all things, technology, uh, came rushing back. And the very first thing that it really opened my eyes to was how much I needed to learn in order to be able to add value to these types of at the time investigations, and ultimately to this field of study. 

MK Palmore: I had the opportunity towards the latter part of my career in the FBI to lead one of their largest cybersecurity investigative teams based here in San Francisco. It gave me such a wide exposure to challenges on the cyber threat landscape. And so you begin to get a sense from that perspective as to what kind of impact technology will continue to have on business. And of course, cybersecurity by my account was exactly the right place that I needed to be for any future aspirations professionally. 

MK Palmore: When the opportunity came to retire from the FBI, luckily I had mentors out there and folks who were interested in expanding my knowledge base and giving me an opportunity. Interestingly enough, it's still really about a strategic level conversations and engagements with customers. My responsibilities include engaging in those conversations and helping folks identify a solutions that can help them digitally transform and stay relevant. 

MK Palmore: I've always been good at keeping a certain equilibrium. The term resilience is something that I've always shown. I didn't have the most stellar upbringing in terms of economics or family surroundings, but I held true to my goals, my dreams and my focus. I've learned never let anyone else shake your confidence or shape the view of what you see for yourself.  

MK Palmore: I'm a leadership student, a lifelong leadership student. I think there's always something to be learned in the leadership circles that, that you're in. Being both a Marine and FBI agent, I've had the opportunity to lead large teams. I find myself now in an individual contributor role. And one of the things that I harken back to is the concept of lead from where you stand, be a leader in all aspects, lean into problems and provide solutions as opposed to sitting back and waiting other, waiting for others to, to provide solutions to problems, and raising your hand for the difficult stuff. 

MK Palmore: You've got to expand your network, you have to avail yourself of opportunities to meet folks, to engage with folks who are doing what you want to do. But also hopefully put yourself in a position to help someone else. Because it works in both directions.  

MK Palmore: We need more folks in this industry. That's really my passion especially as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion, I don't think there are enough folks in this industry that look like me. And, you know, we're talking about underrepresented minorities and of course our include women in that large swath. If folks just said, Hey, MK did a lot to help folks get to the table that will be time well spent for me.