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Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Thank you. I quickly glanced over the questions below and I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences.
A little about myself. My grandparents ended up in Lebanon, as most Armenians did fleeing the genocide. My parents are Lebanese Armenian immigrants who moved to the US in the 1970s to escape the civil war in Lebanon. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California still have ties to both Lebanon and Armenia and consider them home. 2020 has been a very tough year for both countries. I’m very involved in bringing awareness to the plight and assist where I can.
My mother was a teacher and I grew up attending the school she taught at which allowed me to become multi-lingual in Armenian, Arabic and English. I later switched schools, got exposed to everything the Los Angeles Public school system has to offer, both good and bad.
My mother had a debilitating stroke when I was 12 and my father passed away when I was 16. I had to quickly become an adult and fend for myself. I didn’t get a chance to enjoy a lot of the pleasures that most teenagers my age got to participate in. At 17, I was in my senior year of high school and had a full time job. I would often start my days very early and not finish until 2am — 6 days a week. I didn’t have a mentor at that age, so I had to decide for myself what was right and wrong. Being a self-starter, setting a goal and laser focusing on it came naturally. Growing up in Los Angeles, it’s very easy at that to get caught up in certain lifestyles. I’m glad I chose the path I did. It allowed me to find my calling in cybersecurity.
Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in cybersecurity? We’d love to hear it.
I was always good with technology. I was always curious and I always enjoyed taking risks. I still do.
At a very young age, I would break things just to see how they worked and tried to put them back together. I wasn’t always successful and would often get in trouble for it.
This translated over to when I got my first computer at 9 years old. A Packard Bell 286. I would constantly take it apart and put it back together — again, not always successfully.
Once I got bored with that, I began writing programs. I spent a lot of time on iRC, AOL and Usenet groups sharing programs, or Warez and meeting other like-minded people.
I would run home from school, sign on using my dial up modem and continue writing programs, until my mother would yell at me because the phone didn’t work.
This allowed me to realize my capabilities — both good and bad. I started joining “groups”. As the internet started gaining more popularity, we would have fun online, we would be annoying, sometimes disruptive, but we didn’t see it as harming anyone. Social engineering wasn’t really a thing back then, but it existed and those who knew how to use it, used it to their advantage. We were kids in our early teens and didn’t really know any better.
As time went on, some of my friends delved deeper into this type of lifestyle and started getting attention. I saw some of my friends get into trouble with the law. I had to make a decision: is this a path I wanted to follow?
I have a lot of family and friends in law enforcement. I remember one conversation where a Sherriff’s Department friend of mine said “You know, the best criminals can make the best cops, because you already think like that.” The statement had a massive effect on me and I consider it a turning point in inspiring my career. I knew most of the tactics, most of the strategies. After this conversation, I made a conscious decision to educate and help rather than damage and disrupt. I have had no regrets.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?
To read the full interview visit medium.com
Steve Tcherchian, CISSP, PCI-ISA, PCIP is the Chief Product Officer and Chief Information Security Officer for XYPRO Technology. Steve is on Forbes Technology Council, the NonStop Under 40 executive board, and part of the ANSI X9 Security Standards Committee.
With over 20 years in the cybersecurity field, Steve is responsible for the strategy and innovation of XYPRO’s security product line as well as overseeing XYPRO’s risk, compliance, and security to ensure the best experience for customers in the Mission-Critical computing marketplace.
Steve is an engaging and dynamic speaker who regularly presents on cybersecurity topics at conferences around the world.