C-suite career advice: Todd Carroll, CybelAngel
How important are specific certifications? “As someone who hires a lot… I view certifications as proof of a person’s ability to learn and work towards a goal.”
Name: Todd Carroll
Job Title: CISO and VP of Global Operations
Location: Chicago, IL
Todd Carroll is the VP of Global Operations and CISO for CybelAngel. Carroll brings over 20 years of experience in the FBI’s cyber, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism branches. Prior to joining CybelAngel, Carroll served as the Deputy Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s fourth-largest field office, Chicago. Carroll oversaw investigations related to cyber and physical security, threat intelligence, risk analysis, compliance, insider threat identification, and mitigation strategy. Carroll holds four GIAC certifications in information and cyber security, an M.S. in Cyber Security from the University of Maryland (UMUC), and a B.S. in Law Enforcement Administration from Western Illinois University. Carroll also graduated from Carnegie Mellon University’s CISO-Executive Education Program.
What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? Someone once told me, “There are always two inboxes on your desk. One is marked easy. One is marked tough. Both need your attention. If you focus on only the easy, the tough ones will continue to pile up, and situations will get out of hand.”
What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? It’s not always the case that someone needs to be an expert to help another or understand their needs. Everyone has something to offer, an insight, a different perspective, even just some empathy. You’ll miss out if you dismiss people out of hand.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? Find a niche that you enjoy. There are a lot of different opportunities and paths in IT/tech, so try new things, learn new things, open your mind. Then choose a path that you truly enjoy.
Did you always want to work in IT/tech? No, (chuckles) tech wasn’t my first career choice. I have always been interested in computers and technology. Then during my time with the FBI, I had the opportunity to learn more and more about the industry as I joined the Cyber Crimes Squad.
What was your first job in IT/tech? It was running the Cyber Crimes Squad for the Chicago field office in 2006.
What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/tech? That everyone has or needs the same set of skills. You’ll hear, “Oh, you work in tech? So you know code, right?”. It doesn’t work like that. Tech is a VAST field with many specialisations and niches. Despite that, having a broad overview or understanding of different areas is very helpful in understanding the bigger picture.
What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? My three tips would be – first, work on becoming a good leader. Second, you need broad awareness of a lot of concepts. Third, surround yourself with bright people so you can ask them any question, no matter how dumb or stupid sounding you think it is.
What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? I’m in a bit different position than most. Having done twenty years with the FBI, I’m now on my second career. My goal now is to see if I can have success outside of the FBI. So far, I’ve done well, and I am in a good position. Still, I am pushing myself to see what more I can do.
Do you have a good work-life balance in your current role? NO (laughs). I already came from a 24/7 career with the FBI and it’s part of me now. It’s difficult not to wear multiple hats at a start-up. If I see something that needs to be done, I am going to get it done. I’ve got an obligation to be there for those around me, other employees, and the company.
What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? Nothing. When I took my job at CybelAngel many of my peers were shocked. They would ask, “You’re gonna do what? For a French start-up? Are you sure?”. Now they ask for tips on making similar transitions. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? (Todd narrows his eyes at this question while he ponders a response.) IF…. I was to take a stance; I would say degree. You will be exposed to more of the field with a degree, and then you can choose to specialise in something that you enjoy and makes you happy.
How important are specific certifications? As someone who hires a lot… I view certifications as proof of a person’s ability to learn and work towards a goal. Certifications take time and a lot of effort to achieve. A certificate tells me what you should know or understand, but it also tells me you will put in the work. That’s what I like to see.
What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? The ability to listen, learn and share. You need to listen to understand what a person, a partner, or a company needs. You need to be able and be open to learning things. You must share what you have learned with others to help those around you.
What would put you off a candidate? Being fake. Don’t be someone else. Don’t try to be what you’re not. Eventually, the facade wears thin and will fall. In an interview, I want to get to know the real person.
What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? Not listening! I had an interview with a candidate. I started off by telling him that this would be a conversation, and we’d trade on and off. I finish introducing myself, and then he talks about himself for 25 minutes straight. He had a slide show. I never managed to get a word in. This was supposed to be a conversation. He didn’t listen.
Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? It’s always better to have a mix of both. Technical helps get you in the door; understanding the business needs gets you promoted.