Steve's California Backyard
STEVE'S CYBER-SECURITY JOURNEY
Gayle Herbert Robinson: Currently, you're an advisory board member of DB Cyber Tech, a database security company. Is this one of the start-ups you created? Tell us about the company and how you landed in the cyber-security field and startup business?
Steve Hunt: Yes, we created this company 10 years ago. I was one of the founding members and the President and COO. The company was assembled from a group of technologists who all had a background in data networking and software with a focus around complex pattern recognition and computer learning.
My background in product development and operational management complimented the teams' technical skills. Leveraging backers from previous companies, we were able to build some very advanced products that proved much better at detecting cyber threats. This was my 4th startup and I remained on the advisory board even though I have formally retired from the company.
Gayle Herbert Robinson: What were your biggest accomplishments?
What was your biggest disappointment?
Steve Hunt: Professionally it would be my first start-up, Copper Mountain Networks, which I joined as the VP of Engineering and employee 13 in 1996. At that point, we had some initial designs in the works and a little money in the bank. We grew that company to over 300 employees and took the company public in 1999. When I finally left in 2002, I was the GM of one of the divisions.
My biggest disappointment is not having had the opportunity to pursue a PHD. I have the utmost respect for those who have achieved that education goal, and use it in their professional career.
I got my B.S. in electrical engineering from Drexel University and my M.S. in electrical engineering from Stanford University. In many respect I cherish my B.S. from Drexel the most, their learn by doing/co-op program provided a real world foundation that prepared me to hit the business ground running, when I graduated.
Gayle Herbert Robinson: According to Hit Infrastructure.com, DB Networks launched an Artificial Intelligence solution so "organizations can achieve both compliance monitoring and database security without giving up control of their data for the sake of compliance." Can you explain this a little further and what were some of the results?
Steve Hunt: This is a complex topic but in the simplest terms this centers around understanding threat vectors (how are attacks advanced).
Using that knowledge you build models and detectors – some of which are based on machine learning/AI concepts – that help distinguish activities that are normal/acceptable behavior from those activities that are trying to steal or compromise customers data.
Then presenting those findings using visual techniques that allow a user to easily understand the nature and severity of the threats that have been detected. Given the complexity of typical data center applications and environments, as well as the sophistication of the threats this is a difficult and ever evolving challenge.
The results were a product with a high degree of sensitivity to threats and a straight-forward interface to understand them.
THIS JOURNEY BEGAN AT FRANK FORD
Gayle Herbert Robinson: What advice would you give Frankford alum interested in pursuing the cyber-security field?
Steve Hunt: There are a range of careers in this area. Depending on your strengths you can pursue the technical side of this industry by focusing on the STEM skills and heading toward a software degree in college. There are several levels in this area from the people who develop systems that have fewer vulnerabilities to threats, to folks who develop systems to detect threats, to those who do vulnerability testing to try to find weaknesses in systems. Not all of these require advanced degrees, making it easier to get started.
If you are more of a leader, then you may want to focus on the process-oriented aspect. This is how you organized resources to achieve compliance. It still has a technical aspect but focuses more on organizational skills and balancing risk. This doesn’t require a software background but more of a business and operations background.
How did Frankford prepare you for the entrepreneur world? What was your most inspiring experience at Frankford?
I had some great teachers at Frankford who really cared about the students they taught. Especially Mr Ehlmer in math who constantly challenged us; and Miss Carmean who made science fun. They created the spark that started my love for science and technology.
But looking back, the biggest influence was being part of the choir. Not only did it give me a great group of friends, but it gave me the ability to stand up in front of others. The work ethic that came from putting in the extra hours and effort required to get things just right, became the foundation I used to get through under-graduate, while working part-time. Also, our trip we took to Ireland in ’75 is what grew into my passion to travel.
Now that you've entered retirement, (when?) what advice would you give those entering this exciting next chapter?
Well, this is still pretty new to me – not quite two years – but the best advice I can give is ease into it. For many going from working full-time, or more, to not
working--can be a big challenge. In the beginning, there are many things you’ve put off while you were working that will keep you busy. But, as that list dwindles down, you need to make sure you have something that fills your day and gives you purpose. For each of us, that will be different.
Over the years, you and your wife, Susan, have travelled the world. What experience left you breathless? And what visit was the most humbling?
We have traveled quite a bit and have been to many parts of the world. It’s hard to pick just one place that left us breathless. However, flying in a helicopter over Victoria Falls in Africa or staring out from the highest point in Machu Picchu, in Peru, at the structures built almost 600 years ago are certainly high on the list. Also, looking up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican or standing in front of the Hagia Sohia in Istanbul are certainly humbling.
What's it like being a new grandpop? What's your grandson's name. How does he amaze you?
My grandson’s name is Cade. Since most of the Alums are probably grandparents too it seems silly to talk about how great it is but…. He’s three years old and I love spending time with him. Watching him discover the world and see it with young eyes, makes me feel optimistic about the future. It brings back so many great memories of raising our boys when he's cuddled up in my lap. He lives on the east coast and we live near San Diego, so I don’t get to see him as much as I’d like; but it makes the time we do spend together that much more precious.
Let's imagine you just stepped into an alternative world, and bumped into your high school self. What would you say to him?
Although I’m not sure I would change a thing in my life, I’d probably tell him to slow down some and enjoy the little things. It’s easy to get caught up in everything and forget that life is not all about accomplishments. It’s also about the journey. Now that I’m retired, I’m getting to focus on the little things more. I'd tell myself to start enjoying life a little sooner – life goes by too fast.
How long have you lived in California? (What area?) What adjustments did you have to make?
My wife and I have lived in Carlsbad for almost 25 years now. It's a beautiful place with great weather, wonderful people and a lot to do. It's not hard to adjust to living here given the above.
Name three people you would love to meet and why?
Struggled with this one too much.
Finally, what makes you smile?
That’s an easy one – my grandson. I’m doing it now as I write this.