In our staff spotlights, we get up close and personal with our amazing Sophos team members.
Up next is Karl Ackerman, Distinguished Product Manager of STG.
Let's Talk Career
1. Can you tell us about your role at Sophos?
I’ve been with Sophos for 14 years now, joining as a Product Manager for the endpoint product. I was expected to add innovative new capabilities. I also helped integrate the exploit mitigation technology (Surfright - Hitman Pro) and the machine learning introduction to Sophos EPP (Invincea).
Over the last few years, my role has evolved to work on endpoint detection and response. I am helping to build a new product area with the Sophos Network Detection and Response team.
2. How did you get to the role you're in now?
I have been working in cybersecurity for decades. I started at SecurID, now known as RSA Security, where I was a developer, architect, and manager for the two-factor authentication product line. From that, I did a stint in sub-prime mortgage refinancing but quickly returned to cybersecurity and landed my role in Sophos.
3. What inspired you to get into IT and security?
I ended up in the security space by accident. My first job out of college was writing software for the newspaper industry, and I lived in Australia for a few years. When I was tired of creating WYSIWYG products for that job, I took a year off and traveled around Africa.
When I returned to the States with no job and running low on lucre, I called a headhunter and asked for any job they could get me fixing defects in someone else's code. That landed me at an organization doing two-factor authentication.
4. What do you enjoy most about your role?
The most enjoyable aspect of working as a product manager is interacting with the customers, sales teams, and developers. Understanding a problem space and then translating that into requirements that can be built reasonably to meet a real societal need is very rewarding.
5. What's something you've done during your time in the organization that you're proud of?
My most noteworthy accomplishment at Sophos was helping shape our EDR/XDR/MDR product. I remember when I joined, Sophos was a traditional AV company with a strong FW business. Helping us transform into an enterprise-class threat-hunting organization was exciting.
6. Describe a typical day in your Sophos life.
Most days are spent working with the developers and other folks in product management to ensure we're building the right features and prioritizing work appropriately to ensure we have what the market needs and wants.
Nowadays, my day looks like this:
- Spend a few hours a day in various meetings;
- Deal with the threat-hunting queries we have built into the product;
- Experience the user interface; and
- Determine if we have a product that does what it needs for security practitioners.
7. What's the best advice you can give someone who has just started their career?
Here are some tips for someone who just started their career:
- Do not take the first job you can, find the one that suits you.
- Take risks and opportunities when they arrive.
- As a 21-year-old, I got the opportunity to work in another country for a year. What I learned is that leaving behind friends and family to take that adventure was sure worth it.
- Ensure you put as much as possible into your retirement accounts. Your latter self will surely appreciate it.
8. What would you do (for a career) if you weren't doing this?
In addition to my work at Sophos, my partner and I run a small non-profit providing support for long-term caregivers and their loved ones.
Role in the Sophos Community
9. What's a fun fact about you that you could share with the Community?
Fun fact: It took me two colleges and five years to get my degree in computer science.
10. Have you posted any Recommended Read guides on the Community?
I maintain the Sophos NDR community forum, so I have many announcements and Recommended Read articles there.
Who is Karl outside of work?
11. What are your hobbies outside of work?
Gardening, running a non-profit, gaming (Dungeons and Dragons), and motorcycles.
12. What's something you're planning on doing in the next year that you've never done?
I want to head up to Acadia National Park for a week this summer.
13. What's one thing you're really good at?
Growing stuff and landscape work.
14. If you could learn how to do anything, what would it be?
15. Tell us about where you live (and your journey getting there - if applicable).
My wife and I live in Topsfield, MA, which is about 20 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean.
16. What's your favorite thing about where you live?
I love that we have real winters, or at least we used to.
17. Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I have dozens of patents; and the most exciting one was using cryptography for offline authentication.
18. Any favorite lines from a movie?
I hardly watch movies or follow music, so I doubt I can name any line from a movie.
19. If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Along with learning to levitate, it would be great to be able to teleport. (Much faster than flying)