December 14, 2022
by Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing
Join us this week for another episode of Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing. Today, we’re talking with Dillon Townsel, Head of Public Relations at Armis, as he takes us on a ride through his career journey. From Egypt and Afghanistan to IBM: Dillon tells the story of how he, like many others, unexpectedly found cybersecurity and ended up loving it. He also shares how he found himself teaching cybersecurity and emphasizes that knowledge in the field is not the first thing he looks for in employees.
[02:15] Background as a musician, opening recording studios, and sales
[09:23] X-Force Red and working for IBM
[13:09] Working as a combat journalist and telling stories
[20:43] How to gain technical knowledge in the field
[27:40] Why Dillon could be a professor
Dillon’s technical background and the journey of getting there
Dillon shares how his technical background in cybersecurity came in more towards the middle of his career trajectory. First, he tells how his technical knowledge fell like dominoes into more opportunities down the road. Dillon shares how his music background led him to learn the ins and outs of a recording studio which then led him to broadcast journalism in the military. He built on this, eventually going into security PR and then working on a team called X-Force Red at IBM.
“That was tough at times, right, I was out by myself, lugging around camera gear for . . . four or five days at a time. I learned a lot. Getting stories out of people and just going out and you've never met this person before. And your goal is to go out, meet some 21-year-old kid from Oklahoma, and find out what's interesting about maintaining a Humvee or working on military equipment—pulling the stories out of people.”
Meant to be: Jumping into cyber at X-Force Red
After taking paternity leave, Dillon dove into cybersecurity, taking a job at IBM. He describes how, on the team, he looked for security vulnerabilities and emphasized that, at IBM, everyone is a customer. He shares why this took a lot of trust-building and how his team ended up getting media coverage for hacking into cars and exposing security vulnerabilities in nuclear power plants, among other things. Along with X-Force Red, Dillon also worked on Trusteer and mobile device management.
“I think IBM Security was probably my crash course. That was when I got the most exposure to the most diverse set of security projects that are out there—because IBM Security works on everything. And so the possibilities are endless.”
Boots on the ground stories in Afghanistan
Dillon takes us back to his time in Afghanistan and traces back where and how he learned to tell meaningful stories. Aside from getting senior leaders camera-ready and running a radio show, during his time in the service, Dillon had to learn how to tell stories on the fly. This, he says, prepared him for his future endeavors working in PR. Now, he takes his technical and journalistic experience, working at Armis Security.
“Especially when we were doing stuff with X-Force Red, we had to take those stories and figure out 'why is this important to the average person?' 'Why would my grandmother care about this piece of security research?' And so it was always about finding the human element and being able to tell that side of security because everything we do is eventually protecting regular citizens. So all of this stuff trickles down to them.”
Where do you see print fitting in today’s cybersecurity marketing?
Dillon says that, although the majority of his background is in broadcasting, print is necessary. He also mentions that he picked up a lot of copyediting experience throughout his career which has become quite valuable in his job. He says that his skill set has allowed him to review press releases, video scripts, and other writing. Dillon emphasizes that, in the end, little skill sets can go a long way throughout someone’s career—whatever job they find themselves in.
“In our world, telling a story in print is necessary, right? We must get our commentary and thought leadership into those articles, making the business press understand why security is important.”
Check out the Armis Security website.
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