TheCconnects: Can you tell our readers a little about your professional journey & how did you come to your current role/position?
Rich Graves: I am having fun where I am now. I found my way into my first Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) role by enjoying what I do, with integrity. Public service, rather than profit, was an explicit goal. Profit is not “evil.” Companies need to make money. People need to make money — until they have enough to retire safely. At that point, I wish they would stop, because the world does not currently need any more megalomaniacal billionaires. The next generation, on the other hand, needs both practical experience and money.
TheCconnects: Who has influenced you the most in life and why?
Rich Graves: My favorite people, besides my children, include Harry Mazal OBE, Kenneth McVay OBC, and Fr. John Howard, CJM. Professionally, my best bosses and mentors include Chip Haven (RIP, Stanford University Networking), Roberta Lembke (CIO, St. Olaf College), and former Associate Vice President and Executive Director of OmniSOC Tom Davis (Retired, Indiana University). In the field of information security, I look up to, for various reasons, Alex Stamos, Alyssa Miller, Leslie Carhart, and Chris Krebs.
TheCconnects: What are the biggest challenges you have faced in your life & how did you overcome them?
Rich Graves: For the most part, I have had an easy, privileged life, lucky to repeatedly appear in the right place at the right time. More recently, my neck, having been stuck out a bit to help friends, was broken, twice within the past 18 months. At least the first incident, I believe, was likely a targeted attack, based on an involved party’s subsequent identification as a criminal racketeer seeking protection money. No permanent harm was done to me, though.
TheCconnects: What lessons you have learned from your professional career?
Rich Graves: The lessons I have learned are to trust and verify your friendships. Most people want to do what is good and what is right, whenever they can. Under stress, especially if they feel severely resource-constrained, people may deviate from an inclination to behave with integrity.
TheCconnects: What do you see as the biggest challenge for brands in the digital space?
Rich Graves: The biggest challenge for a “brand,” in the post-post-post-modern world of “truthiness,” is maintaining authenticity. Some may make appeals to cynicism with “ironic detachment” or “power,” but again, I believe that most people, and certainly the larger corporations where the money is, would prefer to deal with people of integrity and authenticity. If you want people to take you seriously, don’t lie. Having fun is fine, and in fact preferred, sometimes. Never “punch down,” though. Even if you think you believe that the target of your ire is someone that more powerful people want harmed, things have a way of changing. Things have a way of coming back.
TheCconnects: Do you have any advice for those who want to become a chief information security officer?
Rich Graves: It may sometimes be necessary to “play office politics,” beyond logical persuasion, especially in cases of intractable disagreement among legitimately opposed interests. Always stick with positive moral values, though. Lift people up, with appropriate safeguards to protect your own interests, and they will remember you in a positive light. Do the right thing. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest, yielding to you the initiative.