Matt Swenson Spotlight Photo

I got into cyber – by working as a Special Agent for the Department of Homeland Security. I began my career as a federal agent working primarily narcotics and money laundering investigations in the Seattle field office a year after the September 11 attacks. My transition to cyber came in 2004 when I was reassigned to the cyber group in Seattle and was trained to become a computer forensics agent. I spent the next 18 years of my government career working in the cyber field.

For me, a positive cyber mindset is – one where we constantly learn and grow. The cyber field is continually changing and can feel overwhelming at times. One of the most important lessons I learned early on in my career was not being afraid of the phrase “I don’t know.”

The skills that helped me transition to a career in cyber – My skills as an investigator helped me transition into the cyber world because of the inquisitive nature of the investigator’s mindset. I’ve always argued that teaching someone the technical nuances of cybersecurity is easier than teaching someone how to be a good investigator.

The experience that set me up for success – My time as a computer forensics agent set me up for success in my career. Possessing a technical background created a strong foundation as I progressed into the management ranks.

My recommended read – on a professional level – would be The Art of Memory Forensics. This book should be mandatory reading for anyone in the cybersecurity field. The memory forensics training course by the book’s authors and their company Volexity is one of the best classes I’ve attended.

My top tip to those transitioning to a career in cybersecurity is – to practice on your own time to gain knowledge. I’ve conducted a lot of interviews with potential candidates. When a candidate is asked whether they have experience in a particular area, “I haven’t done that at work, but I built a virtual lab at home, and I’m learning about it.” sounds much better than “No, I don’t.” It also shows initiative and an eagerness to learn new things.

A favorite place of mine is – hard to pick. I’ve been fortunate to travel all over the world while working at DHS and as a U.S. State Department cyber contractor. I’ve visited places that aren’t vacation spots that I wouldn’t have otherwise visited. I’ve been to the rainiest place in the world during monsoon season, Meghalaya State, India, to the last country in the world to abolish slavery, Mauritania, and a bunch of countries in between. If I had to pick one place, it would probably be my wife’s home state of Hawaii. If you’re going to have to visit your in-laws, it doesn’t hurt if they live in Hawaii.