Mike Sheward was born and raised “in the middle of nowhere” in the United Kingdom, but he found his second home in Seattle, and in the city’s tech community, seven years ago and he’s never looked back.
“Growing up in a world of soccer, dairy cows and generally acceptable underage drinking and smoking, I was the strange kid interested in computers, the wireless spectrum and avionics,” said Sheward, who is director of information security for Seattle-based Accolade as well as GeekWire’s latest Geek of the Week.
Sheward got his first IT support job helping local schools in his home county of Worcestershire — yes, home to the famous namesake sauce.
“One day, I accidentally and unintentionally busted a member of staff doing something pretty bad on a school network,” he said. “I found myself helping the local police force — who were more adept at handling livestock-related crimes than digital crimes — prepare a case against the guy. This was my first foray into the realm of digital forensics and investigation, and I was hooked. This was a particularly proud moment for me, and it foreshadowed the work I would later do with deep analytics tools, such as ExtraHop, which make that kind of work a billion times easier.”
Since then, Sheward has spent his career working in information security and forensics both in the U.K. and the U.S. He’s also an aspiring author, and just a few months ago released a book of some of his favorite digital forensic adventures, called “Digital Forensic Diaries.”
“The stories are inspired by real events from my own work, and my fictitious digital forensics investigator uses the tools that I use in real life to solve the mysteries he encounters,” Sheward said.
Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Mike Sheward:
What do you do, and why do you do it? “I’m a director on the security team at Accolade, a company seeking to improve the healthcare consumer experience through the use of technology. My time is split between writing policies and procedures, responding to Slack messages, building and maintaining our information security monitoring suite, responding to more Slack messages, reviewing code and application security practices to make sure we’re doing everything safely, and checking for additional Slack messages. I do it because I love the people I work with, and the Slack messages they send me, and also because the healthcare information we work with is highly sensitive, deeply personal and we owe it to our customers to keep it safe.”
What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? “I think a lot of people have a misconception that information security is hard to do well. It’s not. All it comes down to is a lot of common sense, and taking a moment to pause and think about what you are doing. Now, that’s not to say that mistakes don’t sometimes occur and lead to incidents, but when they do, it’s more likely to be down to a person clicking on a phishing site than the Russian government.”
Where do you find your inspiration? “Somewhere between clicking the ‘random article’ button on Wikipedia (I do this for half an hour every night) and the bottom of a Northwest IPA.”
What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “Facetime. Without fail I use it every weekend to connect with my family back in the UK.”
What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “Bright, open, in front of a giant TV screen so I can see what is going on, and most importantly, surrounded by my friends.”
Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) “Work hard, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Enjoy yourself; if you do this, everything will come together in the end.”
Mac, Windows or Linux? “Mac, which could also be considered pretty Linux tbf.”
Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? “Picard, best voice.”
Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? “Cloak of invisibility, I’m a sneaky bugger.”
If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “purchase a cool ‘.io’ domain name and work backwards from there.”
I once waited in line for … “A chance, just a chance, to turn left out of my Bothell neighborhood. It came … after 16 minutes. I knew then it was time to move.”
Your role models: “I can’t really think of one person. I like people who are hugely successful in whatever it is they do, contribute greatly to society, and manage to still be nice human beings.”
Greatest game in history: “Any ‘Command and Conquer’ game. Personal reason, growing up, my dad used to spend as much time playing them as I did. We even had LAN parties with a crossover cable!”
Best gadget ever: “Rachio smart sprinkler controller. It lets me start my sprinklers from my phone. Sometimes I make like I’m a WWE wrestler entering the ring and use the sprinklers as part of my entrance moves when I arrive home. Other times I use it for home defense. The possibilities with that thing are endless.”
First computer: “Amstrad CPC472.”
Current phone: “iPhone 6S with an extended battery case.”
Favorite App: “FlightRadar 24 (proof here.)
Favorite cause: “It’s hard to narrow it down to just one. I’m happy to live in a city with so many cancer research organizations, because I think we all agree on getting that sorted out. Fred Hutch would get a shout-out for the amazing work they do. Secondly, the Seattle Humane Society does great work in looking after dogs that might otherwise not get a chance at life. I picked up my pupper Rosie from them a few years ago. She’s annoying as h*ck sometimes, but we love her to pieces.”
Most important technology of 2016: “This might be a bit of a strange answer, but I’m going with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. Obviously, this thing was an exploding disaster, but that, in a way, is why it was so important. It provides a very concise case study demonstrating that if you rush things, they can go very wrong. We deal with this in the information security realm all the time. A rush to get the latest code out leads to a bug, which leads to an incident. I’ve used the Note 7 case study constantly to make this point.”
Most important technology of 2018: “Drones. 2018 must be the year of the drones. I want drones to bring me beer, I want drones to deliver my packages, I want drones to fly in defibrillators and save people and I want a personal drone to fly 20 feet in front of me constantly checking my surroundings.”
Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “At times when you think everyone around you knows more than you, remember they don’t. They’re all must making it up as they go along, and that’s fine.”
LinkedIn: Mike Sheward