Our CEO Robert Gupta answers questions about his biggest challenges, how he found his way to Secon, and what being ‘Always on’ means to him.
What got you into the cyber security field and your current role at Secon?
From a very young age I always wanted to get into the IT field. I was heavily influenced by a teacher in school and decided to study computer engineering with math at university. My original career choice was to be a systems analyst – putting in systems and processes to make businesses more efficient. In other words, bringing some sort of order to chaos, which I still thrive on.
I started my career in cyber security working for a UK technology distributor as an account manager looking after resellers who were helping their clients with their IT and technology needs. In 1997 they brought to market an internet and email sniffing tool called Etrust, and as organisations opened their businesses to the World Wide Web, they used this tool to monitor their users and block inappropriate content. That was my introduction to the field of cyber security.
How I got into my role at Secon is a funny one. I left my role as an account manager at the distributor and went and set up a wine bar in London, which was a disaster. I then came back into the industry in 2000 and joined Secon which was a very small division of the distributor I had originally left.
From there I met and fostered relationships with CISO’s and heads of IT and started working closely with them in securing their environments. It was in this environment that I really thrived, knowing that I was helping our clients deliver value to their respective organisations.
As demand for our advice and expertise grew, so did the team. It was from here that I took the leadership position. In 2010 I completed a management buyout of Secon, which takes us to where we are today.
What challenges you the most in your current role?
The biggest challenge I face is ensuring that as Secon grows, we don’t lose sight of our purpose and our reason for existing. There are many external challenges that can distract us, be they financial, the lure of selling out, or getting wrapped up in the vanity of the high growth cyber security sector. For me, it’s about delivering day in and day out on our commitments to our clients and also to the team at Secon because after all, the work they do is very valuable.
What’s a memorable experience that you’ve had in your role?
In 2017 WannaCry hit, and we were providing a Managed Detection and Response to an NHS trust. I remember that at around 1:15pm, one of our SOC engineers came into my office to tell me that that they had spotted an anomaly at the Trust. At the same time, we saw the breaking news on the BBC of a ‘massive cyber attack on the NHS.’ That was my ‘oh s**t’ moment.
So many questions were racing through my mind. Are we prepared to deal with this scale of attack? What happens if our other clients are also under attack? Do we have the capacity in the SOC? What are the consequences if we can’t stop this attack?
My anxiety levels went through the roof, but I quote from Jimmy Iovine, “Fear’s a powerful thing. I mean, it’s got a lot of firepower. If you can figure out a way to wrestle that fear to push you from behind rather than to stand in front of you, that’s very powerful.”
Which is exactly what we did. We set up a war room and got to work. Within a short period of time, we stopped WannaCry from propagating at the Trust and by 5pm we cleaned up any damaged machines.
That team at the NHS Trust went home that evening safe in the knowledge that they were protected. The sense of satisfaction and relief I felt will never be forgotten, and it also put us in good stead as we scaled up Secon.
What are you looking forward to achieving in your role for the remaining months this year?
As the CEO I have my eye on all aspects of the business. Our growth, our customer satisfaction levels, our innovations, our brand, our financials, etc., etc.
Success for me is delivering on all of these facets but also ensuring that we are prepared for 2023 and beyond. So, I am looking forward to growing as a person and as a leader, ensuring that we deliver in 2022 and are prepared for 2023 and beyond.
What does ‘Always on’ mean to you?
‘Always on’ for me stands for so much more than just cyber security.
It means that we are with our clients standing shoulder to shoulder with them. It means we share with them in their good and challenging times. It means that if there are bad things out there trying to disrupt our lives and livelihoods, then we are a force for good, always counteracting the bad guys and restoring some sort of balance in this world.
Is there any message you want share with those who want to start their journey in cyber security/Secon?
Cyber security is such an exciting field to enter, whether it’s in the fields of incident management, cyber security innovation, or customer services. However, cyber security is an industry built on fear or ‘what if…’.
Therefore, it’s very important to deliver on your promise, be it to internal or external stakeholders. My message to anyone joining this field is: It’s very hard to recover once you lose the trust of your client. So, make sure you ‘mean what you say’ and ‘say what you mean.’