My innovation and creativity can be traced back to the age of seven, when I received my first computer for Christmas. This created the foundation which assisted me in forming the fundamental skill of logical analysis. Five months later, I had mastered Commodore Basic and I created my first computer program. My parents nurtured my talent and treated me to my first PC at the age of eleven. By the age of sixteen, I built a Network for a local solicitors firm. My talents had now surpassed a hobby and it was at this point I realised I was heading for a career in IT!

A job became available as a PC Engineer in an emergent company by the name of Tandem Software. They gave me my first step on the ladder, throwing me in at the deep end by placing me on customer sites with minimal understanding of the systems they had implemented. The learning curve was steep but rewarding, as I constantly had to face obstacles that seemed insurmountable. It was here that I discovered my aptitude to thrive on challenge, which was the core skill I took from the experience. I progressed through the company until I hit a glass ceiling, and as I was at the beginning of my career, it seemed a suitable time to progress to a larger organisation. This led to me joining Advanced Networks & Solutions Limited.

Advanced Networks & Solutions Limited hired me without a formal interview. Whilst waiting in reception, the MD walked up to me and asked if I knew about web hosting. I said that I did and he hired me on the spot! My first assignment was to build a subdivision of his business to handle the hosting and design of web content for all of the companies’ major clients. After getting this new division to a viable position, I realised the profitability of my own knowledge and decided to move into the freelance consultancy arena. Barclays Bank was my first freelance assignment.

Barclays opened my eyes to large-scale business with zero tolerance for failure. This, I realised, was the environment that I could thrive in. I showed true business acumen by streamlining business practice through the strategic use of new and emerging technologies. This environment welcomed these innovations and rewarded them. Whilst in this role, I was awarded three commendations for innovative solutions and demonstrable technical leadership. At the end of my contract period, Barclays offered me a permanent position within the organisation, however thirsty for more; I decided to continue with my chosen path.

This led me to Executive Travel Club. They were an operation with a key piece of technology that could change the way car leasing was performed globally, but a lack of understanding of the technology needed to achieve the goal. The business relationships were in place, however, to achieve the objective, the company needed to change their technology from a local to a global system. I embraced this challenge and delivered them a global solution that scaled beyond there expected scope, and provided them with the platform to succeed. Once the architecture was created, the project was handed over to a large-scale consultancy for global implementation.

After successfully accomplishing the company’s goals, I moved on to my next challenge, which provided me with an opportunity to relocate across the Country and continue my career path. This contract was with Electronic Arts. This was a great environment for my creativity to thrive, as they expected innovation through technology by default. As the Internet Systems Administrator I was given full control and management of the entire EMEA 24x7x365 online infrastructure, which gave me the freedom to improve and scale to a solution that sustained over 11 million visits per week, serving static, dynamic and game content to these visitors. It was a natural progression for me to take these skills and innovations into the corporate environment when the online and corporate networks merged, so the promotion to Lead Network Engineer and offer of a permanent position marked a change in direction.

The corporate networks were more archaic and required major change in order to better serve the needs of the business moving forward. One of the key challenges and best experiences involved managing this change to a new technology on a global scale as it influenced every aspect of the business and related systems. Room for error was simply not an option. I continued my innovation by looking at the way the business operated and ensuring it was making the optimal use of available technology. As I found new and improved ways of achieving business goals, I would communicate the findings to senior exec so that they could see the fiscal benefits.

The ability to create a seamless long term technology strategy, a short term tactical technology direction, and evaluate new technology while aligning it against business process, became a core element of my position at EA. Senior Management recognised my talent and created the role of European IT Security & Audit Manager, where I led the security function for the EMEA region. My in depth knowledge of the systems, infrastructure, security and business served to build a winning team and strategy within the department. To further compliment my knowledge, I attained the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) qualification to ensure best practice within the ten domains of security. This reinforced my business and technology orientation to risk management and gave me the framework to implement Information Security in an enterprise environment.

My time within EA was akin to a typical consulting role as the business used IT & Security in a familiar consultative manor which made the transition to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) a seamless and obvious one. PwC hired me as a senior manager with the sole remit to “create a security and technology business from the ground up in the north”. This was an ideal opportunity for me which I grasped with both hands and successfully delivered. During me first two years with PwC I built a team of strong, well respected consultants, developed the internal and external markets and gained recognition from my peers and clients alike resulting in a thriving business with strong revenues and consistent growth. Along this journey of growth I identified a set of products that had been missing from the firms repertoire for some time, specifically in the realm of Threat & Vulnerability Management (TVM). Naturally, I picked up the mantle in this case and as a side note, developed a  practice specialising in this field for the firm. Soon this practice had surpassed the original practice I had been asked to develop and as such, I was asked to take the TVM practice to a national status full time and pass back the mantle of the North’s security practice to another.

With this change of focus came my Directorship, and the creating of a new shared service that was able to focus and specialise in the field of TVM. This team of experts, some brought with me from my prior leadership position in the north, got the focus, training and support they needed to truly excel, while I took the role of innovation and thought leadership to heart, so as to create something truly unique, competitive and state of the art within the market. The results of this focus and effort is a strong growing client base and revenue streams as well as innovations the likes of which have never been seen before.

The creation of this practice brought together all of my skills within the technology space and combined them with my expertise in business allowing me to navigate the inner workings of the firms complex structure and create a fully standalone business that sits outside of the firms accepted working models. This feet was not an easy task and took months of planning, strategising and lobbying to pull off, but the result is what can only be described as a boutique company operating within PwC on its own P&L.

Naturally, given my success and demonstrated expertise to date within the firm combined with my wider career, the firm has asked me to be part of the “OneSecurity” Leadership team, steering the wider national security practice through aggressive growth plans as we “step change” within the market. This leadership comes with the additional direct responsibility for the Incident response capability, linking my “Attack & Defence” focus with Incident Response and Investigation. These responsibilities put me firmly in the frame for the firms “CyberSecurity” Initiatives and as such, I spend a great deal of my time working on the overall strategies, market propositions and underlying structures and operational capability to back them up.

In September of 2010, I became the Chair of the Competitions Committee for the UK Cyber Security Challenge. A Not for Profit entity working within the industry and its major players to plug the skills gap that has appeared in the cyber security market through the use of innovative challenges designed to engage and uncover the next generation of talent. The role comes with overall responsibility for the challenges, the fairness and appropriateness of the games, good governance of the competitions in general and direction of the challenges themselves and sits along side my role at PwC. This is a position of great importance, not only to the challenge, but to myself and the industry. Part of the reward for me is that I get to work with a group of my peers, all respected members of the industry, who come together for the single goal of ensuring we have enough talent coming through into the market to fuel the required expansion in the UK. The other part of the reward is that I get to do some good, meet some very interesting people who are genuinely enthused about cyber security and play some games to boot!

As of August 2012 I have set up my own consulting organisation called Advanced Security Consulting Limited. This was the logical next step for me after setting up and running many successful ventures under the umbrella of other organisations, and was a welcome opportunity for me to put all of my expertise and experience to the ultimate test. This new venture is about building an organisation that delivers true expertise to its clients without compromise and puts their needs and “doing the right thing” above profit margins.

— 2016 update —

As of May 4th 2016 Advanced Security Consulting Limited was purchased by the Falanx Group of Companies. ASC was merged with an existing cyber business specialising in Protective Monitoring to create Falanx Cyber Defence, a UK based “full service” Cyber Security company capable of offering complete end to end protection for companies of all sizes and types. I am now the Managing Director of this combined entity and responsible for its strategy, growth and delivery.

My LinkedIn profile also has a number of recommendations and acts as my online CV:

View Jay Abbott's profile on LinkedIn

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