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Debbie Sallis, Executive Director of The Cyber Guild, recently sat down with David Boyer, Chairman and CEO of GlobalWatch Technologies, Inc., to discuss cybersecurity as a meaningful career and how to build trusted relationships to build your success…

David: Well, it was before we called it cyber, and some might say I was in the right place at the right time. As a young Air Force officer involved in Military Airlift Special Ops, I was introduced to many special airlift missions flying in and out of Joint Base Andrews. Also, I interfaced with the Defense Communications Agency (DCA), now known as the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). I witnessed the evolution of information technology and how it interlinked with telecommunications. My area of interest was Information security.

Although security and safety are essential to operations, operators viewed the processes as getting in the way of standard operating procedures and “slowing things down.” During the 1980s, the Reagan administration, Star Wars (SDI) was exciting, new, and innovative, and I wanted to participate. I found satellites and the Star Wars programs interesting in my calling.

At that time, the emphasis was on information assurance and data security. In 1985, when I separated from the Air Force as a regular to indefinite reserve status, I co-founded a startup offering IT and security services to the defense department and federal agencies. Our subject matter expertise and trusted relationships helped us to secure our first government contract.

It was a tough beginning, and I was a young and naive new business owner operating our business from our home and dining room table. In the late 1980s, we won a significant service contract to support the Air Force System Command. As a result, we moved from our home to a small office in Alexandria, VA.

David: At its core, you must surround yourself with trusting relationships and recognize those who are passionate subject matter experts. Plus, we established a dependable and credible network of like-minded professionals. Furthermore, our work performance was reliable and predictable.

Cyber is a horizontal, not vertical, service that touches everything and everyone. It is essential to protect our critical information infrastructure 24/7.

As we grew our enterprise, we needed to be laser-focused on our strengths and vulnerabilities and stick to our knitting. Our challenge was to remain small and nimble and continue building our team with high-impact players.

David: One of the greatest privileges I had in my life and career was being mentored by Arnaud de Borchgrave, who served as the editor-in-chief of the Washington Times. He had noticed the work we were doing, and my passion for wanting to be an impact player. Individuals such as him, Colin Powell, and others less well-known “paid it forward” by supporting my vision and work.

Cyber cuts across all tech and other industries. Many great individuals are passionate about why we do this work and are more than willing to give a helping hand as mentors. You can create situations inviting great mentors to notice you and support your success, creating situations that can lead to mentoring relationships. Of course, you can have more than one mentor.

  • Pay attention and be passionate about how technology transforms and cyber’s role.
  • Be intentional about building meaningful relationships. Identify and seek out those you can trust with a discipline in this field. Our company grew through service and reputation. Mentors were a critical part of my journey. I sought out people I respected and others as well in their fields. Arnaud de Borchgrave, former editor-in-chief of the Washington Times, saw our success and reached out to support our future success, which opened doors to titans such as General Colin Powell and others who became mentors.

David: For me, a positive cyber mindset thinks critically, is incredibly important, and is powerful. What do I mean by that? It is consistent in behavior and making predictions and decisions that rely on consistent behavior. And for me, I incorporate my faith in my decision-making process and those I choose to build relationships with.

The speed of tech and volume of social media, let alone AI, may be driving a world that makes decisions by soundbites. That can make it hard to know who the “bad actors” are and who can be a trusted source of information. This gaslighting is a real threat to our democratic way of life. We are going to be vulnerable – it’s a fact. So, being mindful and thinking critically about reality will become more critical. My background means I see things through the national security lens and understand the need to discern what is real.

David: My family, parents, and grandfather are the most influential people in my life. My upbringing shaped how I view the world and my place in it. From a young age, my family role-modelled community values and giving to those less fortunate.

Every year, I recall, we would pack used clothes and drive to a place to share them with others. It was not a one-off; it was how we did things. I was raised to believe I have a responsibility to help others less fortunate than myself.

David: I’d say success is measured by “feeling comfortable in my skin.” I had accelerated success and a time of many accolades. That led to my belief that every decision I made was right, “believing in my hype,” you might say. I couldn’t get out of my way. Success, of course, can create this, and I would say, “PAY ATTENTION to what is happening to you and around you.”

David: My bucket list includes revisiting places I love with family. I plan to return to Ethiopia and visit historic sites. I had great positive and emotional experiences in Cambodia many years ago when I went as part of my federal work. I’d love to go back.

And reading, well, there are two books I return to: “It Worked for Me, in Life and Leadership” by mentor and friend General Colin Powell and “Thriving on Chaos” by Tom Peters.

David: That’s simple – the satisfaction of knowing I helped others to be the best they can be.