Career Notes 1.9.22
Ep 82 | 1.9.22

Julian Waits: Find a way to help society. [Serial Entrepreneur]


Julian Waits: My name is Julian Waits and I'm the Senior Vice President and Executive in Residence with Rapid7, as well as the Chairman for Cyversity. 

Julian Waits: When I was a kid, I grew up in the era of the Justice League and Superman and everything. I always wanted to do something where I can find a way to help society to basically help others, protect others. I always thought that was going to be a military career or something like that. Didn't work out, but that was my assumption as a child. 

Julian Waits: I was for a while a Baptist minister, and I was very much into music being from New Orleans, Louisiana. Jazz and gospel was my thing. And so I thought I was going to be like a church musician and a minister. As I was leaving high school, going to college, I also got married early, it occurred to me that to be a professional musician, I probably needed to be a little good. And, it became incredibly obvious to me that I was never going to be a professional musician and I needed to figure something else out and I always had a knack for math and science. And so I took a few classes at Loyola and some classes that were very important at Xavier University in New Orleans, which basically changed the trajectory of my life and that was when I developed an interest in computer technology. 

Julian Waits: In terms of my actual career, my real start started at Texaco and it was specifically Texaco in New Orleans. I started in the computer operations department rolling up plots that were printing off of very large machines uh, that petroleum engineers would developing for, you know, here's where we should go to the well or, or explore if a well could be here. And, the sneaky reason I also did it, is I took the nightshift and I could practice on my saxophone at night without bothering anybody once my work obligations were done, say five, six hours into it, but then I developed a love for doing maintenance programming on Digital Equipment Corporation's VAX mainframes. And, it turned into Digital Command Language, turned into Pascal, turned into C. And next thing you know, I was a maintenance programmer working in the computer department at Texaco. 

Julian Waits: I was the first person to run the networks, computer networks. And so this was right when personal computers were introduced into corporate environments. We had these things everywhere and nobody could figure out how you were supposed to connect them up together. They gave me some training and all of a sudden I became a, banging network certified engineer that then led to me moving on to Compaq Computer Corporation, now HP. I was like the kid in the candy store. 

Julian Waits: I went into systems engineering group, where it was really the convergence of hardware, operating systems from an end point perspective, and network operating systems. And they paid for all the training, they helped me learn better coding skills. I just really blossomed there. And then I realized at some point there was this thing called ADD which I live with every day. Put me in a position where I hated coding. I wanted to be out talking to people and working with people and then, Compaq gave me the opportunity to start doing pre-sales type stuff as well. And that was when I found my first passion for, back to the protection thing we talked about earlier, being able to provide people with computers in a secure fashion, to help them do things and protect their assets at the same time. There wasn't even a thing called cybersecurity. If people use the word cyber back then, they just meant it was digital, had nothing to do with security. But even back then security was a concern, especially when it came to compliance. 

Julian Waits: I moved to Washington DC primarily because I wanted to be in an environment that was highly diverse. You know, when you go to Boston, let's just say, everybody all looked the same. But the high tech scene in DC/Baltimore/Northern Virginia area, I think primarily because of the US Government specifically DOD-related things, it was very diverse and I really liked that. That's when I became a first-time CEO for a company eSecurity. I left there and started my first startup called Brabeion, where I was co-founder and we raised $10 million in our first round and we were off to the races.  

Julian Waits: I started what I'm doing now, which is serial entrepreneur. I love coming into early stage companies or in the case, like I am here at Rapid7, with the management team here bringing me into an environment that's very mature, publicly-traded company, but they've got some things that they would like to do that would be more entrepreneurial and so I'm being given the opportunity to help define what those things are, create a business plan, and watch those new businesses from within the company. And I think it's a great fit for both of us. 

Julian Waits: My parents raised me with the desire to always ask why and understand how something works. Starting with the why. The why is always, what's the problem that cybersecurity customers are trying to solve. It's basically how do I mitigate my risk. In our market, it's no longer a question of whether you're going to be compromised and not. The question is what's the materiality of it, and how fast can I catch it after the fact? But it's also being able to listen and understand what the problems are, and then come back with solutions that really make things better rather than making things worse. 

Julian Waits: The first word of wisdom is something that my father used to say, but he didn't create it. You can't be it unless you can see it. Find a mentor in the industry that you're interested in, even if you don't know exactly what it is. Find some people that are doing things that you think are interesting in the area that you're looking for and do your best to try and build a relationship with them, or learn as much as you can about them.  

Julian Waits: One bad thing I hate about computer science coding, even until this day, where the assumption is always, that you'd have to have a demonstrated, better than average capability with mathematics before you can actually use a computer. And that's just a fallacy. So if you look at IT and then cyber as a subset, there's still a very low representation of minorities and women in the field is still considered to be math oriented, white male dominated thing. Right now in North America alone, there are well over a million job openings in and around the ideal of performing cybersecurity. This is not necessarily cyber analysts or people who do digital forensics. The next hurdle is, but that's way too hard. No, it isn't. If I told you how my career started here, you know, early on in the early days, and there's so much more information, I mean, to get a security plus certification, you can get all the training you need for free on YouTube. 

Julian Waits: When I'm ready to hang up my hat and it's time to it's time to move on to that pasture, I hope people look back at my work and what they see is exactly how I started the conversation that I wanted to help them protect people. And I hope in their lives with everybody that I've ever touched or talked to that they feel in some way that occurred. And secondarily, I hope they can look around themselves and say what the information that was shared with them by me and others in my network, that it did allow them to live potentially a better life than potentially would have had going a different route then in cyber or whatever it happens to be.