E19 - Vincent Berk at Riverbed Technology

Vincent Berk

By Vincent Berk

On the 19th episode of The Route to Networking, Harry Stephenson, the Senior IP Network Consultant on the USA team at Hamilton Barnes, sits down with Vincent Berk, the CTO and Chief Security Architect at Riverbed Technologies.

Vincent got his current position at Riverbed Technologies unexpectedly. He never actually thought it was a path he was going to walk down and had the military set in his sights. He entered this spiral of being intrigued by computer technology and had an academic curiosity in the field.

Back to where it all began, Vincent studied at a university in the Netherlands, studying High-Performance Computing. He initially enrolled at Dartmouth college in 2000 because there was a lot of interest there in High Skill Simulation and Cyber Security. He went over to the Netherlands to study but was offered to start teaching alongside his degree and eventually he achieved his PhD in Computer Science in 2006.

With many controversial opinions on whether university helps push people’s careers or whether it’s just a waste of time, the PhD route was something Vincent felt was extremely useful and was the setting stone to where he got today. His work covers many different bases, and, in a start-up, you lead your engineering team, your project management team, your sales team and with that, you are very busy with all these aspects. To be successful at that, you need a certain amount of people skills and that was why he chose to do Computing… Because he lacked people skills. He encourages people that you have to get good at at least one thing and for him, it was useful to get a rigorous technical base. The PhD allowed him to focus his studies and get a broad base in various machine learning algorithms and Cyber Security.

Something that deeply concerns Vincent is the way we are stacking technologies on top of each other. Technology has become pervasive in our lives and those technologies i.e., Apple Watches have been enabled by the constant stacking of technologies. We are layering on top of a foundation basis that we made in the 60s, stuff we made in the 80s and each time we build a layer on top of a foundation that was laid a decade ago. He doesn’t think we spend a lot of time wondering if those foundations are as strong as they should be in order to support.

One of the biggest daily challenges that he says he faces is time management. If you are an energetic self-motivated individual there are going to be 1000 things, you can spend your time on. You must make a judgement on whether what you’re doing today is in your best interest.

With the Cyber Security industry ever-evolving, Vincent’s take on that is that you can extract and extort the most money if you have the largest amount of control over a company’s assets or processes and is seeing a massive behaviour change. In the old days, we used to say the cyber security defender had to be right 100% of the time but the hacker only had to be right once and that is something that is now changing. As an industry, Vincent believes they need to start taking a better look at that.

Coming back to the ever-evolving industry that is Cyber Security, there are thousands of new technologies emerging each day. For Vincent, he is impressed by wearable computing, IoT computing, specifically the ubiquitous sensing technology. He enjoys solving problems that don’t have definitive answers, so this emerging technology will for sure be keeping him busy in the future.

Some advice that he gives to any Network Engineer is to make sure to stay current with the technologies because they are ever-evolving but also no different than they were before. As it’s becoming more common that we are using technologies that we have known for a very long time and layering them on top of each other, it’s important to remember to always keep breaking it down to the basics and building blocks. It’s also useful to learn to explain what you are doing to the people you work with.

Vincent gives some great advice that he would tell his 16-year-old self that would be useful to any young person coming up into the industry. Make sure you give the podcast a listen to find out what he said.