E61 - John Cavanaugh at NetCraftsmen

Harry Green
John Cavanaugh

By Harry Green & John Cavanaugh

On today’s episode, our Head of Enterprise USA, Harry Green was joined by John Cavanaugh, the CTO at NetCraftsmen. During the show, John walks us through his 40-year-long career in the Networking space. He shares his experience working at Cisco during the early 90s, learning about his time participating in some of the companies’ huge developments which have led them to be in the position they’re in today. He also takes us through later in his career when he decided to make the transition into Cyber Security which is where he is today.

His journey first began when he was in college back in the 70s. He not only was the first graduate in Computer Science at his university but also in several of the first companies he worked for, he was the only one who had a degree in Computer Science because it was such a new entity.

He joined Cisco in 1993 and came in as a Senior Engineer in the Technical Assistant Centre. In the process of his 18 years there, he helped a lot with the development of the certification programs as he was one of their early CCIEs. He was then heavily involved with setting up a CCIE lab where he helped with the program for the CCDE.

Eventually, he got bored… “People like me get bored, once we got that all setup and running, it was no longer a place I wanted to stay”. He moved back into services after that to run an organisation inside of advanced services that he would up centrally engineering. There was a lot of ability to grow in that organisation which was continuous learning all the time, which he loved.


He then stumbled upon NetCraftsmen in 2016. There are pieces of the role that are the same as his Networking positions but also pieces that are different too. As a CTO, he isn’t really a people manager, it’s more from a technology standpoint. The difference from Cisco is that he can be very vendor-neutral. They are a Cisco Gold Partner, but they also work with Palo Alto and a number of other vendors.

NetCraftsmen is split up into 3 sections, a 3rd of the business works with the government, a 3rd in healthcare and the rest is Finance and other related industries.

There is a lot of talk about making Cyber Security more attractive to young people, but until we start taking a team approach to it, things are going nowhere fast. John suggests that you grab a team of senior people and create an apprenticeship program. Bring them in and get them to work with the seasoned team. It’s the only way to effectively grow your business.

What more people need to be aware of is that security is at the forefront of everything these days and people need to be more aware of attackers. There was a time when John and his team were working with an electric utility a couple of years ago and they discovered an active attack that was occurring from North Korea and Iran that was happening against the utility. Someone has mistakenly configured an environment in a way that allowed the attack on the IT infrastructure to leak into the operational technology that controlled the electric grid. This is just one example of having to be on constant alert otherwise your entire business could be at risk. That means there are tonnes of jobs in Cyber Security at the moment and they are constantly looking for new talent in the space.

Coming from a man with 40 years’ of experience in the industry, John gives out his best piece of advice to anyone looking to enter the Cyber Security space. Whether you are looking to enter the field of Cyber Security or extend your current knowledge, John’s advice will prove invaluable to you. Listen to the full episode now.