In this episode of the Hacker Valley Studio podcast, hosts Ron and Chris interview AJ Yawn in an episode that is a mix between a master class and a founder’s journey. AJ is the founder and CEO of ByteCheck, with a personal and company goal to “make compliance suck less.” He is a cloud security expert, and brings to the conversation a wealth of wisdom on cybersecurity, leadership, and personal growth. The episode focuses on topics surrounding a major event in the past week for AJ and ByteChek, addressing AJ’s background, the work surrounding ByteCheck’s genesis, AJ’s thoughts on compliance, and more!
The interview begins with a look at AJ’s background. AJ grew up a military brat, and eventually found himself in the Army for a time. While he did not place much consideration on technology before he entered the Army, it was during his Army career that AJ developed an interest in cybersecurity. He became passionate about cybersecurity and the cloud, and he went all in! After he left the service, he began a job in cybersecurity consulting, and he’s been in the field ever since.
This episode is recorded at another momentous shift in AJ’s career, though, and Ron and Chris invite him to share about the past week, focusing on highs and lows. AJ shares about how he and his friend Jeff just launched ByteChek days ago, choosing as their launch date the significant holiday of Veterans Day! This choice was a way to honor AJ’s family members who served before him, and Ron and Chris also thank AJ for his own service to his country.
In light of this exciting time, AJ explains what the early days of the company have been like and considers some influences that have shaped him. In this stage of his company, AJ has capitalized on LinkedIn. He had previously not been accustomed to using the site or to the more general task of business promotion, but he’s found that networking on LinkedIn is a great way to grow a new business. He also explores ways in which his background in sports and as a middle child among nine siblings have shaped him as a cybersecurity worker and entrepreneur. Such factors of his youth helped him to foster a growth mindset and competitive nature, and also taught him to stand in his power.
Next, AJ talks about the thinking behind the tagline, “make compliance suck less,” which is honest, humorous, and relevant to the problem that drove AJ to start the company. As he navigates issues of business, compliance, and the like, AJ demonstrates remarkable capacities for focus. Ron and Chris wonder how he manages to focus on a single subject and to stay intentional for months or even years at a time, and AJ answers that he focuses on the process. In order to do so, he relies on the 90-91 model (which calls for the first 90 minutes of his day to be centered on a certain thing), as well as an array of goals.
AJ is also deeply committed to an active pursuit of personal growth. One of the clearest demonstrations of this commitment came in the years leading up to the launch of ByteChek. AJ saw the need for such a company years ago and had it in mind to start his own company, knowing that he needed to take a chance to make the impact he wanted to make. However, he also knew that he was not yet ready to start a business, so he created a masterclass for himself to prepare. Since, in first forming the company, he needed to place special focus on learning the business and marketing side of things, his successful navigation of LinkedIn is just one testament to the effectiveness of his intentional training.
Even in the midst of the fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic (and many problems for businesses), AJ was confident in betting on himself and launching ByteChek. And he’s confident in the future of the company, as well. He invests himself in making compliance exciting for clients, and among his projections for the future of compliance, he even includes plans for a ByteChek Academy! As the conversation reaches a close, AJ provides listeners with a final nugget of wisdom pertaining to the two most prominent themes of the conversation: betting on oneself and stepping into one’s personal power.
1:35 - This episode features AJ Yawn!
2:53 - AJ and his hosts turn to background info and what AJ is doing today.
4:35 - This past week has been huge for AJ because of his company launch!
6:33 - Did AJ’s interest in cybersecurity start while he was in the Army?
8:49 - The group speaks of AJ’s family background, including the fact that he is one of nine kids!
10:00 - Has being in the middle of a big family and playing sports shaped AJ?
12:52 - AJ and his hosts consider ByteChek’s tagline.
15:21 - How does AJ focus so well?
17:18 - Why did he launch the company now, even in the midst of COVID-19?
21:21 - AJ created a masterclass for himself.
25:38 - How does AJ make compliance exciting?
29:39- AJ is asked about the future of compliance.
33:45 - What’s one nugget of wisdom AJ can offer concerning two main themes of the episode?
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