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Heroes Among Us: “Get your team involved as much as possible” with Liron Barak and Marco Derhy

Get your team involved as much as possible. Share what you’re doing, share ideas, and let your team know about achievements and important decisions. Make sure you have clear targets and talk about them, and don’t forget that they’re people so make sure they enjoy what they do.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Liron Barak, CEO and Co-Founder of BitDam, who has over 10 years of experience dealing with the most sophisticated cyber threats and exploitation techniques. Prior to founding BitDam, Liron served in Unit 8200 of the Israeli Intelligence Corps where she managed teams of highly skilled individuals and was responsible for the development of cyber technologies used by the entire intelligence community. Liron earned her bachelor’s degree in Computer Science during high school and completed a master’s degree in Computer Science, with a specialization in Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, while serving in the army.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

I grew up in a city in the center of Israel. I’m the oldest sister among three siblings. My family was always techy, as both my parents studied computer science and worked in the hi-tech industry.

At the age of 14, I embarked on earning my BSc. in Computer Science which I acquired when I was 18.

And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?

I started my own startup company about three years ago and I’m its CEO. When I left the Israeli army, I decided to move to the other side of the fence and leverage my knowledge to stop the arms race of the cyber world. For years, every new cyber attack has been followed by the need to update security solutions, to remediate what was exposed in the new attack. This action is always followed by cyber attackers then coming up with a newer type of attack, with security vendors updating their solutions. This cycle goes on and on, and it’s a never-ending process in which someone always gets hurt. I wanted to make this vicious cycle stop. Considering my knowledge as an “ex-attacker,” I realized what needed to be done and that’s what BitDam, my company, offers to the market.

Can you tell us a bit about your military background?

Like all Israelis, I was recruited into the IDF at age 18. Considering my background, it was quite obvious that I would be recruited to a technological unit. I was chosen to serve as an officer in the Israeli elite cyber unit, and managed several teams over the course of seven years. During my military service, I completed my MSc in Computer Science specializing in AI and machine learning.

Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?

I served on the offensive side and worked in cyber threat development and research, but also worked very closely with most of the security solutions available in the market today. This gave me the opportunity to learn the security solutions market and more importantly, the current gaps that allow cyber attackers to penetrate networks and computers. Later on, this is what allowed me to start my own company in the cybersecurity space, which brings a whole new approach to cybersecurity.

Based on your military experience, can you share with our readers 5 Leadership or Life Lessons that you learned from your experience”? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Listen to your intuition

2. Always share plans, ideas, and news with your team

3. Make sure you’re always aligned with your team members on their targets and aspirations

4. Engage with mentors, colleagues and partners to consult and get feedback

5. Don’t forget about your personal development, and keep investing it that, too

Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business? Can you explain?

Definitely. As my military service was focused on the cyber world, the expertise and knowledge that I gained there were the key drivers for establishing my company and giving it a competitive advantage.

As you know, some people are scarred for life by their experience in the military. How did you struggle after your deployment was over? What have you done to adjust and thrive in civilian life that others may want to emulate?

I guess that it’s a bit different for Israelis, as most people serve in the army. After finishing my military service, I took some time off and started thinking about the future. I realized quite quickly that I wanted to do something I would enjoy, and that I could leverage the professional knowledge and the social network that I gained in the army to start my own cybersecurity business.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We at BitDam have developed a solution for protecting organizations from advanced threats delivered via email, cloud storage and other collaboration channels. Most cyber attacks start with someone clicking the wrong file or link. Our goal is to make any file or link that end users see on their desktop safe to click. Our innovation is in the technological approach that makes BitDam significantly more accurate and efficient than current solutions. We’re always working on something exciting, but I assume that the most interesting thing we’re doing now is developing deep investigation capabilities that help our customers understand the bits and bytes of each attack.

What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?

Get your team involved as much as possible. Share what you’re doing, share ideas, and let your team know about achievements and important decisions. Make sure you have clear targets and talk about them, and don’t forget that they’re people so make sure they enjoy what they do.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve consulted with many talented and experienced people along the way. From BitDam’s first days (and even before we founded the company), my partner and I had a group of advisors with which we shared ideas and engaged prior to any important decision. Their feedback was always helpful, and getting their point of view usually provided us with a broader perspective which is key in making strategic decisions.

Thank you for joining us!



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Entrepreneur | Author | 20 years in publication | Interviews Content Creator with Media Impact | Writer|Film producer|Founder@ Derhy Enterprises. “God is First”