“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality…” These words were written by Martin Luther King Jr. from his jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama. Although he was referring to our mutual dependency as people, he could just have easily been writing about the internet. Of course, the internet did not exist back in 1963—but his words continue to resonate, even today. Interestingly enough, we are also now able to see them in an entirely different light. Presently, as the internet has now become part of our everyday lives, this network connects not only our communications, but also the physical systems that provide us with electricity, water, and food. One may argue, our network of mutuality today has even more relevance and importance than ever. But before we dive into this topic, permit me a short introduction, as it too has relevance.
Travel with me to the Pacific coast of Colombia, my home town. The year is 1956. Although this town of my birth had no real consequence on the global scale of important places, it is now noted for its violence and drug shipments. But back in 1956, when I was a child, this small town on the coast was known for different reasons. It was a meaningful place to both me and my family. It is where I came to be, born in a coastal town on the Pacific just two degrees north of the equator.
Six years later, in 1962, we left our homeland. I remember holding the hand of my older brother with one and the hand of my younger brother with the other. The six of us, mom and her five kids, were now joining my father. The youngest, my sister, was just an infant then, and another brother would be welcomed into the family just a few years later. We landed and disembarked in LaGuardia Airport. It was October 1962. My memories are of a six-year old boy, the cold, the cavernous environs of the airport, and the drive out to the suburbs of New York’s Long Island. Others have their immigrant stories, and I have mine.
Life in America
In 1979, I entered the U.S. Army as a newly minted ROTC Second Lieutenant. And in 1992, I left the Army as a Major and entered the halls of the famous J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington D.C., home of the FBI. After a few years passed, I was selected to join the ranks of the FBI’s senior executive service. It was a great deal of responsibility. In September 2002, I joined an even more prominent organization—the White House during the George W. Bush administration—as the deputy Chief Information Officer (CIO).
The current CIO informed me that he was being promoted, and I was invited to fill the now-vacant role in a sort of “TBD” capacity. I agreed, not really knowing what I was signing up for. But I must have done pretty well, as the bosses soon dropped the TBD part and kept me on permanently. That’s just how life works sometimes.
A Cybersecurity Focus
Oh yes—a great deal happened between growing up in Colombia and later in Long Island, New York. From playing sports as a young man to graduating from Washington and Lee University to joining the U.S. Army, Airborne, and Ranger Schools, I not only learned the value of teamwork, but also about the pragmatics of communications, of satellite systems engineering. I was given command of soldiers and their missions. And after earning an MS from the Naval Postgraduate school, I eventually moving on to the FBI, the White House, and the private sector of cybersecurity, where I still work today. For a young boy growing up in Colombia, it has been quite an experience to reach this point, finding many special places and people along the way—and so much responsibility.
With 2019 right around the corner, it’s safe to say IT has been my life’s work. I made the conscious decision to transition this technological background into a career focused more specifically on cybersecurity. And I have learned more than a few things along the way. Join me next week for more on that topic…