Editor’s note: John DeSimone was named Cybersecurity Industry Executive of the Year (Public Company) on Nov. 12.
The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 8, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually Nov. 12.
Next is Cybersecurity Industry Executive of the Year (Public Company) finalist John DeSimone, vice president of Cybersecurity, Training and Services business at Raytheon Intelligence & Space.
What key achievements did you have in 2019/2020?
A major achievement Raytheon Intelligence & Space earned this year was being named the winner of the “Overall CyberSecurity Company of the Year” award in the Fourth Annual CyberSecurity Breakthrough Awards program.
RI&S’ Cyber, Training and Services product line counteracts rapidly evolving threats around the globe with a customizable and comprehensive suite of solutions that provide advanced protection. The company’s solutions help protect every side of cyber for government agencies, businesses and nations — defending the most critical information, systems and operations with breakthrough solutions.
These solutions include the following: cyber analytics and intelligence services, DevSecOps optimization, cyber physical systems security, data orchestration and resiliency, cyber systems defense and integration, cyber warfare and cyber operations and research.
We also recently launched a new technology, DejaVM, that conducts system-level cyber vulnerability testing without requiring customers to provide access to the limited number of highly specialized physical hardware assets.
Most importantly, we’ve maintained a very high standard of execution excellence for our customers, which has been reflected in positive feedback across the board. I’ve heard from multiple customers that in the face of a global pandemic, “The team has not skipped a beat.”
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
I’ve had many moments of pride watching the way our team has supported our customers in today’s most extraordinary work environment. In some cases, we’ve even facilitated government work approvals for employees of other primes supporting the same mission.
At the end of the day, we bring amazing solutions, but probably what makes me most proud is the absolute dedication of our 6,700 employees to the mission within the Cyber, Training and Services business.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
With 24 cyber facilities worldwide and a unique 31,000-square-foot cyber operations, development and evaluation center that validates product and solution resiliency, RI&S conducts internet-scale vulnerability research, running 500 million+ tests per week. Each of these areas highlight our innovations and the services we provide. We will continue to adjust our business operations, develop new offerings and adapt our delivery model to support the ever changing nature of cybersecurity.
Our goal is to figure out how to make the best use of our resources and capabilities to bring forward the best solutions for each of these new markets. We’re moving to provide technology at all ends of the spectrum and we are actively developing some very important partnerships that help us do that. Our focus is to augment our solutions with commercial solutions to increase mission success rates and mission capabilities of our customers.
We are developing different prototypes that could be wrapped into a cyber as-a-service offering. So data resiliency is an exciting area we are actively pursuing to help bring better protection solutions to our mission partners.
We must also focus on the following initiatives, in order to ensure we are properly prepared for the next data breach or cyberattack:
The speed of innovation is top of mind as an exciting area to explore. The technology we can use to address rapidly evolving threats grows by leaps and bounds.
Building strong partnerships is extremely important in today’s cybersecurity landscape. No single organization can be all things to all people, so we must join our expertise with the companies that have complementary services.
Developing the next generation of cyber warriors is extremely important. Raytheon Intelligence & Space continues to maintain a strong commitment to university partnerships and STEM programs.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
In efforts to impact the future cybersecurity workspace, Raytheon Intelligence & Space has aligned its corporate social responsibility platforms with their business strategy to make a lasting impact in the community. This year, we have made several grants toward the advancement of STEM education.
In August, Raytheon Technologies gave a $4 million grant to the newly formed Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering to help prepare students for cybersecurity careers in government and industry.
Additionally, Raytheon Intelligence & Space has awarded a $447,000 research grant to University of Texas – San Antonio College of Business Cyber Center for Security and Analytics for a research project studying the use of artificial intelligence to detect malicious attacks. Our partnership with UTSA demonstrates our commitment to leading innovation and to continued development of expertise for our nation’s cyber workforce.
Raytheon Intelligence & Space is also an annual sponsor of the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. NCCDC stages a simulated cyberattack against a fictional business network. Teams must keep the day-to-day operations of the organization going, performing everyday tasks, while fending off constant attacks during the nation’s largest competition of its kind.
The event gives cybersecurity students from across the country a chance to test their skills, as well as participate in a career fair and have the opportunity to win a scholarship to advance cybersecurity education. NCCDC’s systematic, professional approach to this competition, and the use of real-world business scenarios, helps attract the talent that will fill the 3.5 million cyber job vacancies we will see by 2021, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. We at Raytheon Intelligence & Space are proud to support such an initiative.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Around 2010, I created the first Cybersecurity product line within the business unit I ran, and I have had one in every business I’ve led since. If you have a vision for something, advocate for it. You never know where it might lead.
It’s also important to keep a strong community of peers and mentors, as the lessons learned from them are invaluable. One key piece of career advice I make sure to remember — leading and managing people is a privilege that is not to be taken lightly. If you hire the best, it’s important to listen to them.