e From Soldier to SecOps - Heath Moodie shares his journey - Equate Technologies

From Soldier to SecOps – Heath Moodie shares his journey

Aug/11/2021

Tell me about yourself, Heath?

I grew up in Victoria but I’ve been living in Queensland for 7 years. I’ve recently bought a house with my partner, Kerry and am really enjoying living in the Sunshine State. I’m a Basketball fan and I love the NBA – I’m a massive strategy gamer too.

How did you get into Cyber Security?

I was bit of a troublemaker at school. I didn’t have any particular interest in studying or going to university when the opportunity arose. I was really drawn to the Military and decided to join as a rifleman. I was posted to 6RAR at Gallipoli Barracks in Enoggera and served there for five years.

Eventually, I realised I wasn’t feeling as challenged. I had started to develop an interest in Cyber Security but never been directly involved, so I started to investigate the possibilities.  The more I discovered, the more I enjoyed what I found – and I wanted to learn more. Then I was given the opportunity to be deployed to Iraq as part of a training mission.

What did you decide?

Being deployed was something I wanted to do during my service, but I knew if I went, I would have to pause my studies and focus solely on the mission in-hand. When the time came to make a decision, I had a life changing moment and decided Cyber was where I wanted and needed to be.  So, I began a different mission; to try and join the civilian workforce.

And how was that experience?

Making the decision to step away from the life I had known was extremely challenging. Leaving my core purpose, friends and support networks to do something completely alone for the first time was more difficult than I could ever have imagined.

On reflection, I realise I hadn’t fully appreciated the purpose, drive and team mentality I’d gained in the army. I had been surrounded by a truly caring community and team, who supported each other through thick and thin. I’m inherently a team player and leaving Defence was the first time I had done something for myself in a very long time. As I made the decision to move on, it felt like I was betraying my brothers.

A few weeks out from leaving the military and with no job in sight, I thought about selling my car and possessions to survive financially.

Let’s talk about your mental health at that time – how did you cope?

I experienced feelings of loneliness, fear and betrayal that were new to me. This was worsened by the lack of Veteran support and the “we don’t care, you figure it out” mentality once you are no longer a part of that community. It was a very confronting, confusing, stressful and mentally challenging experience.

How did you pull yourself out of the mental fog you were experiencing?

I took it one day at a time. I was kind to myself, and I didn’t put too much pressure on setting goals. Giving myself the time to think, understand and process what was happening made a huge difference.

How did you start to build a network?

My initial experience in approaching the Cyber community wasn’t great. I was met with a closed and secretive group who were generally untrusting of newcomers. I noticed there was a real lack of community for Veterans leaving Defence and very few skilled ex-military personnel joining cyber security or IT.

Fortunately, a friend from the army had a partner who worked for PwC. She looked at my CV in horror and then spent some time helping me sort it out. She arranged an interview but there wasn’t a position available at that time.

I needed to find others who had made the transition to the civilian world and started to scour LinkedIn using the search terms ‘Brisbane – Cyber – Defence’ and started to make approaches.

Did anyone respond?

Out of 150 people, I had a handful of responses. One of those was a Partner at PwC. We had a coffee and he really helped me take my first cyber steps. He took me into his Digital Trust team, and I spent two years learning more than I could ever had imagined.

So, this experience led you to co-found a Veterans group in Brisbane?

Yes. During my first few months in cyber, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my experience and watched some of my friends on the same journey. I decided that nobody should ever feel the way I did during my transition into civilian life. For the first time, I knew I had the power to change that experience for others.

Around this time, a few of my mates where coming home from Iraq, keen to joining the cyber industry, so a few of us got together and put an open call out to Brisbane-based people in the Veteran space. We expected 10 people at the first event – 30 attended. Before the event was even halfway through, the call to run another was very loud.

We had established a sense of community, belonging and purpose – all of the things I lost during my transition out of service.  Helping each other through life transitions as a community has been truly life changing.

What can the Cyber community learn from your experience?

I think Cyber businesses are missing the opportunity to scale their businesses using Veterans. We’ve got some of the best skills in Australia and they’re currently getting lost in the HR system. When a Veteran says they can handle stress, manage incidents, communicate directly, make decisions and demonstrate leadership. They really can and are the best in town for those skills. Those core skills are extremely hard to teach.

How did you end up at Equate?

I knew Rylan Painter, who had been hired to lead the SOC team earlier this year as I’d nearly joined his intelligence team in Defence. I had always admired Rylan’s extraordinary ability to solve complex problems and communicate effectively – he was someone I wanted to work for.

Then I met the two founders, Colin and Stephen who had the attitude of ‘If you can make things better, have a go’ – this approach was a great fit with my personal values and general outlook in life.

Tell me about your role now?

My current role is Level 2 SOC Analyst, focused on threat hunting, intelligence and incident response, which I really enjoy. The SOC team is growing quickly at Equate and I’m excited about the opportunity to help the next generation of Veterans into cyber too while having the room to grow and be challenged in a positive and inclusive environment.

What are your views on Cyber Security in Australia generally?

In my opinion, Cyber Security in Australia is very reactionary. If we approached cyber security from a perspective of threat intelligence, we’d be able to drive more proactive decision making and find solutions that work with client needs and address their greatest risks. I feel like these aren’t always addressed or serviced well by larger Vendors.

What can Equate do to change that?

The Equate team is agile and experienced in working with clients to work through and solve those complex problems. From a threat intelligence perspective, we help organisations to understand what is and isn’t a priority.

What do you believe your unique perspective and skills are, Heath?

Bringing a military mindset into IT is the most powerful thing I can do. I enjoy helping businesses and people achieve their best results and I love pulling solutions together.

What’s next for Heath Moodie?

For the day to day, I’m focused on making a difference on my doorstep and I’m passionate about helping to put people in the best position to succeed.

We as an industry need to get better at communicating with each other. I’ve purposefully started expressing my own views and I’m fortunate that I’m comfortable doing that. Being vulnerable helps others to open their hearts and minds and share their experiences too.

Finally, what would your advice be to Veterans struggling with their mental health?

My advice would be:

  • Recognising you’re not happy or unwell is the biggest and scariest jump. When you do make that jump, reach out for help. There are whole communities that want to catch you.
  • Share how you’re feeling with people you care about, starting with family and close friends
  • Join a group like ‘Veterans in Cyber Security’ and connect with a likeminded community
  • Access Government resources like DVA, Legacy, MatesforMates
  • Seek support from a psychologist if you feel you cannot find the right help from other sources.

For more information on Veterans in Cyber Security please reach out to @Heath Moodie