For more than 100 years, Veteran’s Day has been celebrated to honor the sacrifices of the brave men and women of the U.S. military. Today, RH-ISAC would like to recognize veterans in our own community.
For many in the cybersecurity field, the military offered a route into the profession, providing technical training while instilling a lifelong dedication to serving and protecting — a skill set used in the private sector to defend companies and customers.
On this Veteran’s Day, we highlight a few of our members and their contributions while in service and how those experiences translate to their current careers in the information security field.
Mykhaylo Bulyk, Director IT Security
Mykhaylo is currently the director for IT security at ATI, a physical and musculoskeletal therapy service provider operating nationwide. Prior to making the transition into the private sector, Mykhaylo served in the U.S. Air Force as an officer, intelligence and operations. He joined in 2003, motivated by a desire to give back to the country that had accepted him and his family as immigrants. In 2014, after 11 years, he moved into the Air Force Reserve, working three more years part-time as a manager of cyber threat intelligence while taking on other projects at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and prominent law firm, Sidley Austin.
Mykhaylo has found his role in the private sector to be remarkably similar to his role in the Air Force, particularly in recent years, as threat intelligence has become a required security operations function for all cybersecurity programs. To him, the mission continues.
“Cybersecurity careers are unique in that this function in a corporate setting is nearly the same as it is in the military: it is mission-oriented and mission-driven,” Mykhaylo sales. “Our mission in the military is to defend and protect the United States, the Constitution, and the American people from enemies foreign and domestic. This mission remains with us in our civilian careers, where we defend and protect our employers from scammers, script-kiddies, insider threats, and nation-states and criminal affiliates.”.
John Grant, Sr. Lead, Incident Response
John Grant is currently the senior lead, incident response for Under Armour, having just retired from the Air Force in July 2021. From a young age, he always enjoyed working on computers, and he saw the Air Force as a path to get a college education and also gain real-world experience in the computer systems field, so he enlisted in 2001. Over the years, John has held many different cyber security positions in the Air Force and is now able to apply those same skills to his work with the security team at Under Armour.
Chris Zell, VP Chief Information Security Officer
Chris Zell is currently the vice president and chief information security officer for The Wendy’s Company, and vice-chair for the RH-ISAC. A veteran, Chris served 22 years in the United States Air Force, spending time on Active Duty as well as in the Air Force Reserves and the Air National Guard.
His original plan after high school was to play college football, but after a career-impacting injury, he started talking to military recruiters in search of an alternative. In 1995, the Air Force was positioning itself as the worldwide leader in technology, which looked like a great training opportunity, so Chris enlisted and entered the world of cybersecurity.
After nearly 12 years of active-duty service, he joined the Air Force Reserves, where he spent another six years as an information assurance officer. During that time, he started his transition out of the military and worked on projects for Department of Defense contractors. He says working as a contractor helped make the transition easier because although he was now a civilian, he was still working for the government, which allowed him to continue to contribute to the mission he had dedicated himself to for so long, while learning how to succeed outside of the military ranks.
In 2011, Chris accepted his first non-government role by joining Lowe’s, where he spent five years quickly working his way up through the ranks to become their first director of cybersecurity operations. During this time, he joined and served in the North Carolina Air National Guard, providing information security training and cyber operations support to state agencies. In 2017, Chris joined Wendy’s, and now serves as their chief information security officer.
He has found that a lot of the skills he learned during his time in the Air Force are directly applicable to the work he is doing today. Not only did he receive the best technical training, as he says, “designing, building, and defending critical networks and systems from some of the ‘best’ bad guys in the world,” but he also gained critical leadership skills.
He was taught in the military that as a leader, he is there to serve those around him. His leadership style is defined by integrity, respect, adaptability, resilience, learning agility, and communications, qualities he brings to his CISO role and in his work as Wendy’s Veteran Employee Resource Group chair. One of the goals of this group is to position Wendy’s as THE employer of choice for veterans from all backgrounds.
“There are MANY reasons why companies should focus on hiring veterans: teamwork, diversity and inclusion in action, leadership, performance under pressure, accelerated learning curves, the list goes on,” Chris says. “I encourage anyone out there who has any influence in their hiring processes to spend some time learning about how hiring veterans will enhance your culture and lead to better business outcomes; and not just in technology but across your organization.”
RH-ISAC would like to thank Mykhaylo, John, and Chris for sharing their stories with us, and we thank all of the veterans in our community and beyond for their service to our country!