Rob Mershon- Episode 29- Security Vendor Series

Robert Mershon

By Robert Mershon

On this week’s episode of The Route to Networking podcast, we are joined by cybersecurity consultant, Brandon Oddy and Robert Mershon, Director of Security Operations and Engineering. They dive into Rob's impressive 16+ year career in the technology space and his transition from a traditional network engineer to a cybersecurity leader. 

A Passion Ignited

Rob’s fascination with computers began at a young age, leading him to piece together and troubleshoot damaged parts of a computer to be able to play Fallout 1. He shares that the technology part has always come easily to him, leading him to forge a career in network engineering. When the Target breach in the mid 2010s came along, it triggered a curiosity in Rob who despite lacking any formal training was able to obtain his CISSP certification and pursue a role in cybersecurity. 

Bridging the Gap

After transitioning from networking to security, Rob realised how at times the communication between business leaders and security professionals could be strained. Security professionals often rely on technical jargon, leaving business leaders confused. Rob identified the importance of translating cyber threats into business terms for gaining upper management support. Security, he argues, should empower businesses, not hinder them, like brakes on a race car. 

A Day in the Life of a Cybersecurity Leader

Rob’s day begins by checking important emails, reviewing how his team is performing on security measures, and staying informed about security threats by looking at a variety of sources. He makes sure to use trustworthy sources such as industry resources and reports from Digital Forensics and Incident Response (DFIR) teams. His day is spent working on important security projects, including creating key performance indicators to determine how well security measures are working. He works with other departments within the company to make changes to the security measures as needed. 

The Joys and Challenges of Leadership

Rob enjoys creating a positive learning environment for interns and junior staff and finds it satisfying to strategically plan security improvements. However, he recognises that leadership roles can be challenging and admits that this is an area he has had to work on and improve at throughout his career. One particular challenge is balancing his leadership responsibilities with staying up-to-date on technical skills in the constantly changing security field. He highlights the importance of a strong work ethic, believing that leaders should possess an “I have to know how this thing works” mentality. He also stresses the importance of developing strong soft skills such as communication and interpersonal skills. Rob’s advice for those starting new roles is to avoid negativity, embrace challenges, and find an area to excel in to solidify your position.

Career Advice for Aspiring Professionals

Rob advises aspiring cybersecurity professionals to seize any experience opportunity, even if it starts with a helpdesk role. While certifications are valuable, practical skills and a willingness to learn are paramount. Starting with a specific area of focus can be beneficial. Mentorship can be invaluable, so building relationships with experienced professionals is key. Lastly, the future of remote work is uncertain, but both in-person and remote environments offer benefits and drawbacks, especially for new professionals who might benefit from in-office mentorship. He also points out the importance of building good habits. Changing your environment can be helpful, and breaking down studying into manageable chunks is key to avoiding burnout. Consistent effort leads to ingrained learning habits. 


Listen to the full episode, available on streaming platforms now! 🎙️