From the Marine Corps to Netflix
As I left Marines Corps boot camp in 2006, many of my fellow Marines knew exactly what they would be doing in support of our nation. Many were infantry, some were administrative, and then there was me. I was slotted as an “Intelligence Marine.” Admittedly, I had no idea what I would be doing after boot camp and combat training. So, I asked around. Surprisingly, no one could offer me any details of what my life would be like for the next five years. When I arrived at my duty station, I quickly learned the responsibility that had been placed on me.
National Security Agency
I had heard of the National Security Agency (NSA) in movies and television before I enlisted. But here I was, a young Marine, entering a building with so much history. It is here I would learn skills that I will carry with me for a lifetime. There isn’t much I can elaborate about this time of my life, but I will say the tradecraft I learned here made the life I live today possible. It was also where I had the privilege of having strong Marine leadership that gave me the freedom to forge my own path (I will get back to why this experience is extremely valuable today later in my story).
The Right Place at the Right Time
After completing my five years in the Marine Corps, I took a contractor role at the newly formed United States Cyber Command. Again, before my first day at work, I had no idea what I would be doing on a day-to-day basis. All I knew was I was to be called an All-Source Cyber Intelligence Analyst. After learning what my job was, I grew concerned. My job was to know the state of the cyber threat environment and to make assessments and predictions based on my knowledge. In my mind at the time, I was learning a skill reserved for government staff and virtually useless in the private sector. I launched myself into college and cyber courses, fueled by the fear that if I ever lost my government job or had to move, that I would be starting from square one. I could not have been more wrong. It was about this time a new field called Threat Intelligence Analysis became the hottest trend in cybersecurity. There were several companies and self-proclaimed experts sprouting up everywhere. When I looked into what these people were doing, I realized that is exactly my skill set. I had hit the proverbial career lottery.
Betting on Myself
I started a small firm with a few friends and we decided to focus on building threat intelligence capabilities for organizations. It was here I learned how fast threat intelligence was changing the way the world thought about cybersecurity. We stood up programs for financial, high-tech, and even Capitol Hill organizations. Although my company only lasted a couple of years, the experience and network I built prepared me for the amazing challenges that lay ahead. I continued to build advanced analytic and intelligence programs at several organizations as a consultant and full-time employee. But there was a place that eluded me and many of my compatriots that come from the military, Silicon Valley.
Are You Still Watching?
Attaining the experience and skills that could garner the interest from a company in Silicon Valley is no easy task. When Netflix approached me about building and leading the threat intelligence program, it gave me the validation that I had made really good decisions in my career. Every step in the recruitment process, I said to myself, “Just to get an interview would be an honor” or “to see an offer from Netflix with my name on it, would be life-changing.” I never expected that one day I would find myself doing what I love at one of the most ground-breaking companies the world has ever seen. At this very moment, I am immersed in my new environment, it’s culture, and technologies. Netflix seems years ahead of most companies in so many aspects. The level of cultural inclusion here is spellbinding. I feel more celebrated here, as a minority, than I have felt in any other organization. I feel like I have been living in a dream-state over the last few weeks. I can’t even begin to explain the technological advancements produced by the company. This is rewarding and also very challenging for me. I feel I am creating something that doesn’t exist anywhere else. This challenge motivates me to a great degree. I am afforded a similar freedom and responsibility that I had in my early Marine Corps days to build this function to protect Netflix and our mission. I can sense this will be my greatest challenge, but one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.