From Gaming Enthusiast to Head of Engineering: Unveiling My Journey of Passion, Growth, and Leadership in the World of Cybersecurity
I find writing about myself quite challenging: how do you capture the essence without oversharing or underselling? Briefly put, I'm a stubborn and curious individual shaped by family, sports, books, and video games. Today I’d like to double-click on the last point as it has been the catalyst for my passion in software engineering.
Really and truly, my love for software engineering is the culmination of all of the above and started from my love for video games at a very young age. Video games are playful, extremely competitive and force you to squeeze every ounce of performance both in hardware and software to get an edge. A perfect training ground.
Coming from a difficult immigrant background meant that finances were tight. The result of that meant having a computer that was extremely weak relative to what friends had. However, as any engineer worth their salt knows, constraints breed inventive solutions. This constraint pushed me to understand how systems worked, where we could optimise framerates without degrading performance. Pushing myself as much as I could just to join the others at the starting line – it didn’t have to look good but it sure had to run fast. Custom anti-aliasing, resolution scaling, tweaking level of detail (LOD), patching shaders, discovering hidden configs, tuning startup parameters and more all in the name of performance. Endless nights spent scavenging through Pirate Bay, Cheat Engine, Hackforums and GameBattles.
After a couple of years playing through Counterstrike, WoW, OSRS, Assetto Corsa and more, I really started to get curious about how games work. Why is it that when I press this arrow key, the camera, almost as though possessed, knows exactly how to render a seemingly simple tree in 3D on my 2D screen? From there, I discovered Java Applets, OpenGL/LWJGL, Vulkan and more, to the point where I decided to build my own toy rendering engine, Jay3D, as a forward-rendering pipeline (thank you Benny!). This was really the turning point in my life for a couple of reasons.
I started my career at 18 years old at a Cybersecurity company. The focus was specifically on Application Security and over the years my interests expanded quite a bit, particularly towards cybersecurity and software engineering more broadly. I grew a deep appreciation for complexity in architecture, algorithms, design and implementation. I found a path that allowed me to channel all of my traits and interests. To me, growing and building companies feels like a sport and I want us to design and deploy solutions that make us “win”.
Fast forward a couple of years and the picture has changed quite a bit. I still actively pursue my studies at the University of Oxford, built my own company and most recently, have been fortunate enough to work at an exceptional organisation such as Exein – which brings me to today.
Currently working as Head of Engineering at Exein which I have been a part of for the past two years has been nothing short of amazing.
Career progression aside, Exein has really been in the goldilocks zone – a deeply technical company with a sound business plan in a growing market. Our mission is to build a secure ecosystem for embedded and IoT devices across the globe; this means supporting hundreds of thousands of devices sending security related events to a central platform in soft real-time. The engineering team is relatively small however the scale and output we achieve together is exceptionally high. We have a profound appreciation for the work we do.
It's not a situation where everyone operates in isolation within their own department; rather, we value and recognize one another's efforts. This dynamic is what I find most enjoyable, and it hits the sweet spot for me. Every engineer owns parts of the platform. They are the decision makers and my role is simply to support them and guide them in making sure they do not miss the forest for the trees; ensure they are pragmatic in their approach and place their work in the context of the organisation and its goals. This is not a strict enforcement either, each week engineers are given time to wander off into areas of interest and many times come back with excellent ideas that we end up implementing!
What also makes Exein particularly special to me is that it marks the first time in my professional journey where I transitioned from a role focused on “breaking” things – where my primary objective was to identify security vulnerabilities and risks in various systems – to a role that involves building things from the ground up. You really get to develop a view of systems and complexity that is perhaps not common. Extremely challenging but also extremely rewarding.
Looking ahead, I am increasingly drawn to the art of engineering, where the focus is on creating solutions that not only function effectively but also consider the broader implications for the world and those who interact with what we build.
My last parting words will go out to all the engineers (i.e., anyone that solves problems!). You are harbingers of change. You achieve what you want, with what you have and you apply it to everyday problems that matter to people.
I hope you appreciate that!