The expansion of the Information Security (InfoSec) industry in recent years has brought with it an increase in demand for skilled and experienced security professionals to provide expert consulting. To address this demand, Alcorn Group, a CyberCX Company, has expanded its presence in Sydney with Samuel Sentongo (pictured), the NSW Technical Area Manager. He is Alcorn Group’s eyes and ears on the ground in NSW, running the daily operations; including onsite testing, rapid response, consulting with our clients in Sydney, as well as, working in Business Development. Samuel enjoys the challenge of solving the unique problems that exist in the InfoSec industry, with a panache for mobile applications testing, especially in terms of new and developing areas.
In order to get to know him better, we sat down with Samuel and asked him some questions about his previous experience, the InfoSec industry, and what drives him. Read his responses below: “I have answered candidly, these are my thoughts and my truth.”
Where does your passion for the InfoSec industry stem from and how did you get into the industry?
There was no one light bulb moment that did it for me. My first exposure to the InfoSec industry was through the movie Hackers. I fell in love with the notion of the “genius hacker” but soon found out that there is more to it than that. What is not shown are the hours put in, in the pursuit of ‘genius’. My life took a detour through a Bachelor of Engineering because, at that time, there was no degree for InfoSec, and my parents, who had raised a family of engineers, thought IT was inferior (Thanks Samuel Sentongo Sr). During my time at Multimedia University, I met two lecturers who worked part-time in InfoSec. They encouraged me, brought training to the university at their own cost, and mentored me. I can’t stress the importance of mentors enough in this industry. For my industrial placement internship, I went for an InfoSec job, even though I had only two subjects related to IT in my degree.
My sister told me, “if you have a one in a thousand chance of getting a job, apply 1000 times”, so that’s what I did. I applied to every InfoSec company on earth (I have the proof!). I applied to all of them, whether they had vacancies or not. (I did get some interesting responses which I am saving for my autobiography 😊.) In the end, two people took a chance on me (Sarah Oquist and Saurabh Sarawat) and the rest is history.
What skills are you bringing to the Alcorn Group team? Any unique approaches that you like to take to solve the problems that the industry faces?
Nothing unique here, just plain old fashioned hard work, grit, willingness to learn, a “leave my ego at the door” attitude, admit when I am wrong, perseverance, and getting things done, is what it is all about at the end of the day. I am not a ‘Rockstar hacker’ and I don’t intend to be one.
While the IT industry has a non-typical workplace culture, I am incredibly keen and invested in helping improve the diversity of the people in the industry. I have skin in the game, not just for people of different race or social origin, but also future generations. Women were the first en masse coders, and in Bletchley Park (do your Googles) women constituted 75% of the workforce which was responsible for Britain’s WW2 cryptanalysis effort including breaking the ENIGMA machine.
Where do you see yourself making the biggest impacts for AG, and the industry as a whole?
Alcorn Group has given me the opportunity to be myself, grow the business and set the tone for how things are done in NSW through autonomy, mastery of my skillsets, and purpose. In terms of the industry, I honestly do not know, time will be the judge.
If I focus on my craft, apply myself, be the best version of me I can, and uplift the people/network around me, then I can be a positive influence. If I can speak and live my truth, then, I will kindle ideas, and light the fires that will make the biggest impact. We always have to question the world around us and challenge thoughts, to grow both as a person, and as a business.
I want to help Alcorn Group to nurture crazy ideas that actually work and make breakthroughs in the industry. Whether a product that is new on the market (insert buzzword here), or a new way of doing business, and adding value for the customer. Alcorn Group aspires to be a place of innovation, coming up with ideas and breakthroughs, while commercialising them at the same time. Alcorn Group has the aspirations to be the employer of choice. This can be done by growing the pipeline of talent and being the ambassador for a place where difference of opinion, and diversity of thought is celebrated, not just tolerated.
What are your passions outside of the office?
Outside of the office, I spend most of my time in the gym or going out with friends. I like to try something new every quarter: last time it was acting and improv, before that rowing but now I am signing up for Spanish classes, as well as, getting back into swimming with the change in the weather. Doing things that scare me is the name of the game and you can only grow once you are outside of your comfort zone. The next new thing I want to practice is meditation and mindfulness.
Having a dedicated Sydney team allows Alcorn Group to have greater onsite utilisation and reduces response time for onsite requests. With his attitude and grit, towards learning and working, not only is Samuel successfully chasing his dream, he is also constantly proving he is a valuable asset to clients, to team members, and to Alcorn Group. By providing a unique and tailored service to clients, Alcorn Group is able to help NSW government departments and companies alike, improve their security maturity and position.