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Go Phish: Gareth Williams, VP of Secure Communications and Information Systems, Thales

Go Phish: Gareth Williams, VP of Secure Communications and Information Systems, Thales

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We ‘go phishing’ with Gareth Williams, VP of the Secure Communications & Information Systems Business of Thales, UK, who tells us about life inside and outside the office.

  1. What would you describe as your most memorable achievement in the cybersecurity industry?

Thales has undergone a massive transformation in the business over the last five years, in terms of both financial performance and reinventing its security offers to the market. I’m immensely proud of this work and to watch the success of a new offer you helped create is incredibly rewarding. Knowing that we are keeping our clients secure and operating also gives you a great buzz

2. What first made you think of a career in cybersecurity?

I took a slightly unusual path to get to my current role as my background is in mechanical engineering and accountancy, and I worked in roles across the Engineering, Finance, Operations sectors. I have always been close to cybersecurity and information assurance though.

The marketing forming and beginning to grow gave Thales and myself the opportunity to help create a business and protect a lot of our clients who we were already working with. Cyber is also a market that is constantly evolving and changing, so I love the pace and sector.

Gareth Williams, VP of the Secure Communications & Information Systems Business of Thales, UK

As well as working here in the UK, I’ve worked internationally and have ran global operations for one of the Thales security businesses. All of these experiences have given me some great insight into understanding both the challenges and needs of a global client and have helped me see how you actually deliver and make it happen for customers. In addition, it gave me some great cultural insights and approaches to achieving transformation, so I guess it was the natural step for me to lead the business after this.

3. What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?

Self-development is important to me and something that I am always keen to instil in my team and new recruits.

While thinking about the bigger picture and speaking to customers takes up a great deal of my day, I also know it’s important to continually learn about the latest technologies with the help of my teams so that I can give the best advice to our customers. Whether it’s the latest development in 5G mobile private networks or quantum encryption, it’s important to never stop studying. It’s essential for the future of the industry that we all develop new skills and highlight this possibility, as there is a real shortage in the sector. I am continually looking for new ways to work with partners and even competitors to see what we can collectively do to make the sector more accessible for the future workforce.

4. What do you think is the current hot cybersecurity talking point?

For Thales, it’s the growing challenge of securing Operational Technology (OT). It’s the new frontier. IT security has matured incredibly and is now moving towards automation and AI deployment to secure and protect assets and information. In Operational Technology, the design, deployment and operation is different in many ways from its purpose right through to its operational life, mission criticality and therefore, how you cyber protect it. Making sure its cyber protected but also connecting it up to enable the Industrial IoT (IIoT) transformation happens for clients is complex and will also require new cybersecurity skills, techniques and approaches. For me, this is the challenge our customers all face and want to overcome. COVID-19 and the need to operate assets remotely has also accelerated this move

5. How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?

I love rugby, always have. My playing days are gone but I still watch a lot and enjoy seeing all levels. With a name like mine, I guess I always would!

Spending time with family is also incredibly important and making sure the balance between work and home is there is vital to sustaining a great balance. Pre-COVID, we travelled a lot and hope to return to this. We lived in Spain some years ago and still love the country, its varying landscapes and climates, and we can’t wait to get back there.

6. If you could go back and change one career decision what would it be?

I don’t really look at things this way. Any role you go into can be shaped and it creates new and different opportunities.

If anything, though, it would probably be that I shouldn’t have been so reticent to enter general management. As an operations person, you always worry about your ability to do the business’ winning and customer piece, but in reality, customers just want honesty, integrity and, above all, delivery on commitments. You don’t survive in operations if you don’t have that part.

7. What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in the cybersecurity industry?

For cybersecurity providers, automation and using new approaches like AI to find and resolve problems before they occur is interesting and a lot of research and investment will continue here.

For Thales, it’s things like cyber deception and having the truly representative test environments that allow you to master cybersecurity in OT.

8. Are there any differences in the way cybersecurity challenges need to be tackled in the different regions?

Much like business, there are cultural differences in how open people are to sharing their cyber experiences.

A big way of learning in cyber is to share how organisations were attacked so that others can try to avoid it in the future. The willingness to share this still varies across regions. Also, in the mission critical areas of cyber, we often deal with securing national infrastructure which brings in differences in standards, methodologies and ways of approaching and managing risks. But the best practices can always find a way of being shared. We often deploy approaches we have learned with clients in Australia, Europe or the US and deploy them here in the UK.

9. What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?

I have recently taken on responsibility for the cybersecurity business in the US and Canada. This is really exciting as it allows Thales to share more offers and information between North America and the UK. It also helps some of our clients to have a more converged approach when they operate in both locations. This all aids our overall push to provide global services to our customers and we are making real progress here. I see strong growth in our sector over the next 12 months as investment plans and digitisation continue to build at pace in the sectors we serve.

10. What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain a C-level position in the security industry?

I would absolutely recommend working in this field. There is so much variation in what you do and the opportunity to work with people that create new ideas and solutions every day is a privilege. The security sector is fast paced and challenging but also really collaborative and forming teams both inside and outside Thales to create a new offer or win new business is a great thing to do.

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