Ashwin Ram is the Cybersecurity Evangelist at Check Point Software, a leading provider of cyber security solutions to governments and corporate enterprises globally.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I started my career in a technical support role for an internet service provider and then a global roaming service provider. Looking back, I think this is where I learnt the art of breaking down complex problems to identify root causes quickly. I then moved into a professional services role with a security integrator before landing a role at Check Point as a Profession Services Consultant.
A few years later, I moved across to the presales team, which was a huge mind shift change – from post sales to pre-sales. In my current role I’m part of the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) as a Cyber Security Evangelist, where I help organisations take a holistic approach to cyber security.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
As a resource available to the entire Australia and New Zealand Check Point team, no two days are the same. I engage with Check Point clients, partners and internal teams to provide insights and recommendations on many different cyber initiatives.
When working with businesses, each customer is unique as different organisations have different security challenges. Therefore, conversation can be very different and often there is a lot of planning that goes in before I engage with organisations.
As part of the Office of the CTO, I deliver talks at cyber security conferences, engage with media, and provide threat trend updates to the industry.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Being part of a global company means I have to be flexible with my working hours. I do occasionally jump on meetings after 5PM and sometimes even have late night calls to accommodate different time zones. Working for a cybersecurity vendor means there are ebbs and flows of busy periods, so finding a routine can be tricky at times.
What’s important in my line of work is keeping pace with the evolving threat landscape by regularly reading the latest reports and security findings. This is something that I try to make a habit of everyday.
At Check Point we have a flexible WFH policy which does make it easier to match our schedules. When the pandemic hit, moving to a remote work model was an easy transition for me. Often, Check Point sales teams are on the road, which means working from home, office, coffee shops and client sites are all part of our working life.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
As with all regional roles, work-life balance is not as simple, so I’m still working on it. With the lockdowns as a result of the pandemic, I had more to do as I went from doing a couple of physical events a month to multiple virtual events per week.
Over time I’ve learnt to set expectations on how my team can engage my services, which is beneficial as it allows me enough time to prepare for upcoming meetings and conferences without having to sacrifice personal time.
5) What are some things you love about your role?
No two days are the same. My role is very dynamic because the cyber threat landscape is always changing and there are many aspects to cyber security.
I get to share my insights and knowledge about network security, cloud security, endpoint and mobile phone security, as well as share incredible findings from the Check Point Research team who continually monitor and research ongoing cyber-attacks 24/7.
Meeting new people and attending cyber security conferences is certainly a highlight. I’ve changed roles every 3 – 4 years within Check Point which meant learning new skills. In my current role, I get to speak at cyber security conferences, which is very cool and something I love. I also enjoy the travel aspect of my role, even though I haven’t done much travel due to the pandemic.
Ultimately, the best part of my job is helping cyber executives make insightful cyber security decisions as they pursue cyber resilience for their organisations.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
The Check Point Research team publishes some fantastic research around everything within cyber security from the latest malware to the impact of ransomware, so I try to keep up with their findings. One of my favourite podcasts is The Darknet Diaries, I try to listen to it as often as I can.
One of my favourite books is Talk Like Ted. I found this book very helpful when I started out speaking at cyber security conferences. I still refer to this book occasionally, just to make sure I’m covering off key elements of presenting. For cyber executives, I recommend the CISO Desktop Reference Guide series.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Like most people on the planet, my smartphone is probably the one device I can’t live without. However, unlike most people I make sure to protect my smartphone from cyber threats. The most important app I have, allows me to track my child’s smart watch so I know exactly where she is. I get an alert if she ventures out of her ‘safe zone’ –one of the safe zones is her school. She can also call me or send me a message if she needs help.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I think reading interviews from cyber security executives will be insightful. Most of them have extremely busy and stressful roles, so it would be interesting to understand how they cope with the pressure and the challenges.
9) What advice do you have for anyone who is interested in a career in cybersecurity?
Cyber-attacks are on the rise; in fact, Australian and New Zealand organisations have experienced an average of 890 cyberattacks per week in the last six months according to Check Point’s Threat Intelligence report on ANZ. One factor contributing to businesses falling short in protecting their operations is the shortage of security talent to help manage security for the organisations.
As such, the 2022-23 Federal Budget included high-level investments in the national cybersecurity and intelligence agency, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD). Over the next four years, ASD will receive approximately $4 billion to support cyber capabilities. The shortage of qualified cybersecurity experts is pushing their salaries well into six figures, an outcome of the lack of the talent pool for these roles.
My best advice for anyone who is interested in a career in cybersecurity is to find multiple mentors who can provide you with guidance and share their experiences. Many cybersecurity vendors have graduate programs, this can be an excellent way to enter into a cybersecurity role. At Check Point we are continually looking to hire new talent, and to help graduates on their new career path, Check Point introduced a ‘Young Professionals Program’.
Check Point’s Young Professional Program is aimed at young professionals (within 3 years since graduation) who are ready to embark on their journey towards a cybersecurity career. New hires will have an exciting opportunity to work alongside an experienced mentor to learn and develop the skills to make an impact on the world’s largest organisations and make the digital world safer. Check Point is currently expanding our team and a wide variety of roles from sales to engineering is open to interested individuals, who want to make a difference in protecting our businesses.
I also recommend reaching out to recruits and just having a conversation. There is a huge skills shortage in our sector, so this is the right time to find a role within this growing industry!
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