11 Apr 2019
Miles joined BT in 1984 as an Apprentice and is now Head of Advanced Security Services in BT Security. Miles tells us about his career, how he’s reached his current role and shares his thoughts about security career development.
Tell us about your current role?
I work within the service design and delivery area of BT Security. We take technology and transform it into designs that provide a service to the customer. I lead a team of experts who deal with security incident and event management platforms, known as SIEM products. And we work with vendor SIEM products as well as our own cloud SIEM platform where customers pay for BT to monitor and manage events. Our customers range from SMEs to multinationals, so our work varies greatly day-to-day, week-to-week. It’s such an exciting team to be a part of.
Tell us about your career and when you joined BT?
I joined as a 16 year old apprentice when fibre optics and other online services were just starting to be developed. I was based in Adastral Park but my apprenticeship was a bit different to the way it is today. I had 4 years of work experience and then BT sponsored me to attend university full-time. I graduated with a B.Eng. in Computer Systems Engineering, and returned to work in a networks team. I got involved in designing our own hardware until vendors started producing hardware. Then I set-up and ran equipment tests and demos over the UK and Europe. I enjoyed travelling, but wanted a change so I moved into IP networks, where I led the design team.
I managed and coached my team of 18 designers. This role really enhanced my soft skills, including people management, which complemented my technical skillset. It was a huge learning curve!
After a while, I realised that security was a huge part of network design, and eventually realised that Security was the place to be. I learnt more about it, took the plunge, and moved over to lead the SIEM design and delivery team.
How has BT supported your career development?
I think BT invests a lot in the development of its people. I was sponsored by BT to attend university and earn a degree and I also gained a chartered engineer status back in 2000. However, the projects I work on are so innovative and cutting edge, that there’s often a lack of relevant qualifications attached. I don’t have many to my name, but I do have a QRadar SIEM qualification which I gained back in 2016. For my current role, I find that my team are the people who do most of the detailed work and require the most learning, whereas I require a general overview of how things work.
I think training is important, but because of what we do, there’s not much about. In my area, it’s more about teaching yourself and learning from others. For example, when I first joined my team I learned a lot from a graduate I was working with. At the end of the day, there’s so much technology out there that nobody can know it all, so it’s really important that we learn from one another.
What do you think are the key personality traits for your role?
- Inquisitiveness. The technology we use is so new and innovative that often training material doesn’t exist yet - so you’ll need the drive to find out stuff for yourself.
- Attention to detail. One slip up can lead to a nasty outcome, so you have to make sure that what you’re doing is accurate.
- Lateral thinking. Understand that security doesn’t operate in isolation - it’s part of the wider service. So you have to understand how and why we do things.
Have you been supported by a mentor throughout your career development?
Yes, quite often throughout my career. Sometimes it’s been by my line manager and at other times it’s been someone outside my team. Either way, it’s been invaluable as both mentors gave me insight into where to develop my skills which I wouldn’t have recognised myself.
This has been particularly useful on the non-technical side of things as I’ve learned that people don’t always do things the way I would, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not right. Feedback from my mentors has allowed me to view situations from different perspectives, and take action to improve the way I work and manage people.
I’ve also informally mentored others throughout my career; in particular people who’ve been working towards their chartered engineer status. I’ve spoken to them about my experience and shared advice with them. I love the satisfaction of seeing people progress beyond their expectations, it’s very rewarding seeing people fulfil their potential.
You've had quite a varied career. What are your further career aspirations?
I definitely want to stay in Security as it’s a real growth area and the projects that I work on are really interesting. I want to help develop our products beyond SIEM, into automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning. And then go even further and transform them into amazing products for our customers. Overall, I want to be a part of growing our security business.
If you could give some advice to people starting out in their career or looking to develop their career in security, what would you recommend?
- Build up a network of people so you’re aware of what’s going on and you can bounce ideas off of people in other parts of security. So often it’s the odd chat over a cup of tea that can solve a problem or open up a possibility. So build up a good network, and go beyond your own area.
- Don’t underestimate that because you’re a graduate or apprentice that your ideas will be any less valuable. People who’ve been here longer aren’t always right.
- Take responsibility for your own growth. If you wait for it to be spoon fed you’re not going to move forwards. Take hold of your own career and make your own opportunities, it’s all about having ambition.
Security is ever changing so how do you keep up to date with all the latest developments and news on cyber?
I use a lot of online sources to find out the latest headlines and I check these out in the morning over a cup of coffee. I use Light Blue Touchpaper, Schneier on Security, Hacker News and TeleconTV. I’d definitely recommend you check out these sites!