Climbing rocks, not ladders

March 31, 2015  |  Javvad Malik

More years have passed than I care to remember since I graduated and landed my first job at a large bank in the IT Security Operations team. My parents were happy for me, particularly my father, who proudly told anyone that listened (and even those that didn’t) that his son was employed by a bank doing something to do with IT. He reminded me that ‘hard work and honesty’ were the key to successfully moving up the career ladder.

For many years I believed him and stuck diligently to his advice. But after hitting a glass ceiling, I came to the realisation that there was a significant flaw in his plan. You see, a ladder implies that you take steps up the rungs until you reach the top - linear progress like progressing through levels on Candy Crush Saga.

In reality, I’ve found that working your way up the career path is a lot more like rock climbing. There is no defined linear path to follow. You choose a path that suits your particular frame, reach and grip. Sometimes you choose a path that turns out to be a dead end or beyond your ability, so you take a step back, a few sideways steps and keep on going.

Having spent the majority of my career on the enterprise side, I welcomed the opportunity presented to me by 451 Research to be an industry analyst. It was that sideways leap from one ledge to another that had me feeling like Tom Cruise in the opening sequence of Mission Impossible II. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time as an analyst and have learnt far more than I ever could have in previous roles.

But after three years as an analyst, the fading calluses on my hands reminded me that perhaps I was beginning to settle into my comfort zone. After all, good is the enemy of great. I didn’t want to go back to the enterprise and moving to another analyst firm didn’t make any sense. The only meaningful path ahead of me was to venture into vendor land… the question was, which one?

In order to determine what would constitute a good place to move I drew a venn diagram with three circles. People, technology and ethos.

People came first because no matter how good all other factors are; if you can’t stand the people you work with you’ll end up in a downward maddening spiral of frustration. I knew several of the AlienVault team and was confident the company had great people with whom I could get along with. It so happens, the first ever report I wrote at 451 Research was a note on AlienVault.

Technology was the second consideration for a vendor. It had to be something that was out to solve a real problem. The fact that AlienVault catered to the SMB and resource-constrained security department really appealed to me. Having started off my career in security operations, I think of all the hours and heartache I could have saved myself had we a product like AlienVault on the market then.

Finally and perhaps most importantly to me came the company ethos. AlienVault is one of those companies that actively participates in the security and technology community. Coupled with its OSSIM and OTX offerings which bring SIEM and threat intelligence respectively for free, speaks volumes of its commitment.

Change is never the easiest of things. On one hand I am as sad as a teenage girl who found that Zayn Malik (no relation) left One Direction to be leaving behind some great colleagues and friends. But on the other hand I am incredibly excited to be joining the Aliens - beam me up Scotty!

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