Meet The Former Marine Who Went Viral Joining Netflix as Threat Intelligence Lead
In his career of more than 13 years, Chris Cochran has witnessed how the cybersecurity industry has changed and gained in popularity. Now, as a threat intelligence lead for Netflix, he is on the frontline of innovation, dealing with threat issues that no one has encountered before.
Speaking at a high school event, Chris Cochran tells the story of the Bangladesh cyber heist. A group of North Koreans allegedly used the Swift financial system to defraud the US Federal Bank account of Bangladesh Bank of almost $1 billion. It is a story that usually get the students interested in cybersecurity. Chris clarifies: “Cybersecurity isn’t reserved just for geniuses. Normal people can do it.”
Chris’ Path to Cybersecurity
Chris’ career in cybersecurity began in the public sector, where he worked for the Marine Corps as an intelligence analyst and then for the US Cyber Command. “In my mind at the time,” Chris wrote, “I was learning a skill reserved for government staff and virtually useless in the private sector.”
But, in reality, the demand for cybersecurity was rapidly growing. As the world became more interconnected, so did governments and companies. Calls for cybersecurity specialists became more urgent. Many companies and consultants came out of the woodwork, proclaiming solutions to different threat intelligence needs.
After realizing this, Chris quit the public sector to start Ashlar Cyber Solutions. He soon experienced the pains of growing a consultancy business: “It’s hard to find new work while you are delivering the work as well.”
While Chris left the company after two years, it exposed him to different aspects of cybersecurity and the industry ‘community’ as a whole.
When Chris got the job at Netflix, he posted on LinkedIn about the good news. The post went viral. Thousands of reactions from people in different industries and around the world poured in.
“That’s when I started to put effort into creating a platform through content,” Chris says, “to get people into cybersecurity, to uplift their talents and give them confidence.”
Community and Content
He and Ronald Eddings – a cybersecurity specialist – host a podcast called SecDevOps.AI, where they have a technical track cybersecurity-related topics and another track called the Layer 8.
“Layer 8 had largely been a joke to talk about the end user,” Chris says. Layer 8 is a reference to the Open Systems Interconnection model, which explains how network systems send data and communicate with each other. While the OSI model has seven layers, Layer 8 relates to the user, the person. Building upon this reference, in the Layer 8 podcast, Chris talks about subjects related to personal development, ego, and humility.
Leading Actor in Cybersecurity Innovation at Netflix
With more than 7100 employees around the world, Netflix is one of the largest tech companies in the world. Cybersecurity problems consequently exist at a scale that not many companies experience. For the very few that will reach this size, Netflix can provide the lessons learned to the cybersecurity community.
“We’re the pioneers of this level of sophistication,” Chris says. Every day he has to make strategic choices based on very few guidelines and use cases [if any exist at all].
But Chris has a lot of faith in Netflix’s process of hiring experts to make the right choices: “We have great talent and remarkable people that are going to do their best to make the right decisions for the organization.”
Tips For Young People Who Want To Start A Career In Tech
Tip 1 – Pick a Project to Solve to Get into Cybersecurity
“Pick a project with a problem that you either want to solve for yourself or others,” Chris says. “But projects don’t have to be something you get paid for. It can be something you can do on the side.”
For Chris, this project was Ashlar Cyber Solutions. He learned years worth of experience in six months [due to intense focus and the need to bring novel solutions].
“Find a project,” Chris says. “Fail fast. If something doesn’t work, try something else. Because there’s a lot of learning that happens in failure.”
Tip 2 – Find a Mentor that Knows More about You and the Space You’re Trying to Get into
Chris advises that people new in cybersecurity try to find a mentor in the niche they’re interested in and to reach out freely. “I think they would be open to helping people,” he says.
Tip 3 – Don’t Listen to Your Impostor Syndrome
“People don’t feel confident, especially when they enter high-performing environments,” Chris says. “But these are all normal feelings, and so you have to find the confidence that the company or the team hired you for a reason.”
Tip – 4 Continue to Challenge Yourself
For Chris, it is a good idea to be challenged by tackling headfirst problems that will help people learn about their craft in new and innovative ways. “I find that I grow more in these positions where I don’t have everything together,” he says.
Tip 5 – Engage with the cybersecurity community and produce content
The cybersecurity community depends on its community to see the latest trends and changes in the field. By being part of this community, people can begin to build a support network, share information, and hire talent.
“You can participate in this community even by asking great questions,” Chris says, “you may not only grow faster in your craft, but you also build your network within the community.”