April 6, 2018

What do we aspire for?

Tom Albert

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Almost 20 years ago, I was living in a 20X20 basement apartment. I was fresh out of art school, and selling copiers to churches. I lived in a multiplex house from the 20’s. Until it burned down at 3AM. I lost everything. I’ll never forget it, standing out on February 14th underdressed in an ice storm.

This was a problem, for a different reason.  I was supposed to present to a board of a county “why” to buy our copiers, or as we called them, “digital output devices”.  Well, the red cross picked me up that night, and put me in a hotel.  I had nothing. Everything was lost.  I called my boss, and asked if I could not go to the meeting happening in 4 hours.  Meanwhile I had gone shopping to Walmart to buy a new pair of jeans and a Tasmanian devil t-shirt so I didn’t smell so badly of smoke.  I listened to my boss, and I showed up at his house, sans sleep at 7:30 AM still smelling like smoke.   We drove to the customer an hour away, and we walked into the board room.  He apologized about my appearance.  And, we laid out the business case.  Then, we walked out w/ a county wide purchase order for changing a 20 year legacy incumbent.  Then, a food drive was created, the church came behind, a clothing drive and I was back on my feet.  He taught me that day how to make a bad situation good.

That’s when, I was introduced to a great person that gave me a grey binder, and a shot.  His wife worked for the same company.  In that grey binder, was cryptographic product information, EE stuff.  I went studiously back to the moldy basement every night, albeit a different one, reading I was tempted to go have fun, but I was focused.  I started as an inside sales rep for this company and as long as I learned the lingo, I could sell it I was told.  Then, as opportunity strikes, I was promoted to the sales position covering Manhattan and Boston.  I had never been to either.  But, I was told to go “knock on doors”.  Well, if any of you have been to either, that’s not how business quite works.  So, I found a path, set meetings and sat across from CIOs at the age of 27.  I wasn’t ready.  But, I tried.  Two years later, I became the best in the company, closing the largest deals that existed in crypto asics and dual-factor authentication mechanisms. 

Fast forward, at Oracle.  Thrown directly to the fire.  Ran the channel for the Eastern US.  Didn’t realize that would be a problem.  But, a year later, was picked up with my wife at 4AM in a limo to go celebrate being the #2 channel rep in the world and whisked off to Vancouver BC.  When I walked in the 5 Star hotel, there was a book on the bed.  Pursuit of Happiness.  With a note in it for me, not from Will Smith, but from the OG.  That was a turning point.

Then, many years of making things happen at Cisco, including building their cyber strategy with some amazing peers. 

But, what was I making happen?  I don’t know.

 What do we aspire for?  In cyber or careers for that matter?  What is it?  Is it to sell the best product in the world?  Or is it to sit out in front of innovation?  Or, is it to do something that means something to us?

 3 Years ago, I decided to buck the trend, and build MeasuredRisk.  Against all odds, we have built an amazing capability that could solve the preponderance of the problems in the space.  Does everyone know yet?  I don’t know.  I don’t even care.  I care most about doing the work w/ those folks you love while you do it and hopefully, it makes life better for people like my kids.  They are the ones that are going to have to deal w/ the fallout of cyber failure.  They are the ones that will feel the burn of every failure and lack of accountability across the table.  They are the ones that will see that we all failed them. 

Let’s aspire better. Let’s think bigger. 

Let’s build something meaningful instead of economics, but something that shifts markets, shifts ideals and makes the world a safer place. Let’s be responsible for our talents, and let’s drive success. It’s not a feature. It’s not a product. It’s a mindset that can revolutionize an entire market and the world. Let’s do that. 

Let’s aspire for purpose.

I'll do my part to make sure that is not our future. Professionals like Greg Hanis, Yuri Koshkin, Charles H. Smith, Jordi Llonch, Michael Vien and Christos Faloutsos are all in. We will humble ourselves, shed our biases, and come together.