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Jack Reis

Cyber security CEO

Jack Reis is the CEO of cyber security company Baidam Solutions

— By Danika Davis with Jack Reis

As a kid, I wanted to be a sports star. I put it down to seeing our First Nations sports stars. I thought, ‘I can do that’ – and I was signed to the Sydney Roosters at age 17. Then two years later, I had an injury and couldn’t play anymore. Luckily I was young enough and had a good support network around me. I went and studied banking and finance at university and started a career in banking.

I did some time in private equity and I got to understand the fundamentals of business. Then I went into government as an investment retail portfolio manager, looking at investment opportunities for the government. All that time I knew I wanted to own my own company but I didn’t know what.

Then an opportunity landed in my lap. That was cyber security. 

Five years ago, when I started Baidam Solutions I couldn’t name any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander CEO or CIOs. I wanted to create ‘the role model of cyber’ and find the Johnathon Thurstan – the JT – of IT. If you don’t want to kick a footy like JT, you want to game and code, we can show you somebody who’s done it.

Building up business

My role is to have executive oversight. I would say my greatest skill is leadership. Leadership is something that’s always changing and something you always strive for. Understanding people and what drives them is my strength – knowing we all have a life outside of work and bringing the team together to work collaboratively.

It doesn’t mean, ‘come in and talk about cyber’. Our industry is hard and fast so it’s important to get grounded again to have longevity. Take your shoes off, slow down, talk to the Elders and yarn. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are learning cultures so it’s important our knowledge keepers sit beside our trainees, and give them their knowledge.

Finding your path

There are conventional and non-conventional pathways into cyber. You don’t always need high school or university. I learned cyber security by working in it. There are also micro-certifications that organisations offer. A lot of schools now are introducing IT into their classes but, to be frank, we look for kids who are curious. You know how to use an iPhone or play an Xbox? You’re on your way. 

I hope if anything, people see what we do and replicate it. The business we work within is a Western business landscape. Why we exist are the impacts, what we do is the commercial. The two engines have to exist together. We’ve had 60,000 years of threat hunting – of protecting our community. It’s innate in us. We just need to apply this to protecting our resources and our data.

It’s okay not to know where you’ll end up because we don’t have a crystal ball. Be tenacious because you’ll get a lot more ‘no’ than you will ‘yes’. You need to have drive, work ethic and resilience. With all the failings in business, you get battle scars. It might not be easy but it gets better. My advice: trust the process, trust your heart and be patient.

Jack’s pathway to becoming a cyber security CEO

  • Professional rugby league player
  • Studied banking and finance at Queensland University of Technology
  • Branch manager at Commonwealth Bank
  • Investment retail portfolio manager at Indigenous Business Australia
  • Founder, Baidam Solutions

A version of this profile also appears in our upcoming issue of Careers with STEM: Indigenous. Sign up to our newsletter to receive updates on its launch date.

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