Interview: Steffan Jones, manager for the UK security operations centre at Alert Logic

With more than 650 employees and 4,200 customers globally, Alert Logic is one of the world’s fastest-growing cyber security companies.

In 2014, the firm launched a state-of-the-art security operations centre in Cardiff. It’s run by a  team of local security and threat intelligence experts, one of whom is Steffan Jones. We recently caught up with him.

TD: What sort of things does your role encompass, and what does a typical day look like for you?

SJ: A typical day? Never had one! That’s one of things I love about my job. There’s never a boring day and no two days are the same. Even after 3 years in my current role, and nearly 4 at the company, I am still learning new things and am faced with new challenges every day.

My day can range from anything between coaching my team, helping them deliver outstanding customer service or assisting them in developing and progressing their career through learning plans, coordinating and guiding my team in response to critical security incidents.

TD: Why did you get into cybersecurity?

SJ: It happened by chance, in all honesty, but I consider myself to have been extremely fortunate. I had worked for a tier 1 ,managed services provider for the previous 10 years prior to joining and was ready for a new challenge.

At the same time, a good friend and former colleague of mine, who was a director at Alert Logic at the time, was looking for a team leader for one of his SOC teams in Cardiff. Since cyber Security was, and still is, the fastest growing sector within the IT industry, as well as presenting me an opportunity to develop a whole new set of skills and knowledge, it was a prospect I just couldn’t turn down.

Having now worked in the sector for the past 4 years, I wouldn’t look back. I love every minute of it! Most organisations, particularly those at the small and medium enterprise level, are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to protecting themselves in comparison to the simplicity and minimal budget required by an attacker. It is outrageously unfair, and I feel it is the duty of my team and myself to do everything we can to help them.

TD: What’s been the biggest highlight of your career?

SJ: Probably watching my team grow, both in size and experience. When I started at Alert Logic in November of 2015, the UK SOC consisted of about 32 SOC analysts. We now have 57 full time analysts, which is a fantastic indicator of our success and the demand of our customers for our expertise.

However, more importantly to me is watching some of the original 32 and others that have joined since, having matured, learned new skills, progressed through the ranks, and delivered some outstanding work that has either had direct or indirect impacts on the security of our customers through their high quality and detailed threat analysis, or building tools, scripts and resources that enable us to respond more effectively when our customers need it most.

TD: Where next for you?

SJ: As far as place of employment, I’m staying put. I strongly believe Alert Logic is on the cusp of great success that will set us apart in the industry, and I want to be part of the team that helps achieve it. On a personal level, it would be great to move up the ladder at some point, but my focus for now is to empower my team to achieve their full potential and for Alert Logic to be recognised within the industry for the place to go for Security expertise.

TD: What do you think of the Welsh tech/cyber scene?

It’s fantastic to see the surge in start-ups and even established organisations situating in South Wales to research and develop new technologies and take advantage of the multitude of tech savvy candidates that live in the area.

This has been driven by a rapid expanse in the availability and choice of tech specific courses and degrees available through local academia, which is having a beneficial knock on effect in helping to drive down unemployment which is brilliant news for the local community.

All of this is generating a wealth of opportunities for business partnership and leveraging each other’s strengths to establish growth both in brand and capability, in addition to promoting the skills available in the South Wales region to other potential investors.

Certainly, it has generated greater competition for candidates, especially in the cyber sector, but I look at this as a positive as it motivates me and my team to continually ideate and develop new strategies for attracting, developing and retaining talent. In addition to the healthy pipeline of talent available in the local vicinity, We are seeing an increase in candidates seeking to relocate to Cardiff to seek out opportunities in this booming technology hub.