Akamai CSO takes a creative approach to finding security pros

Andy Ellis, chief security officer at Akamai, doesn't try to hire perfect candidates. Here’s why.

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Photo collage by Stephen Sauer

What do a chocolatier, theater director and dog-sledding adventurer have in common? All found work with Andy Ellis, the chief security officer at Akamai. And all have passion – an indispensable quality for Akamai’s CSO.

Ellis has a different mindset than most when it comes to building a security team. At a time when the tech industry is bemoaning a lack of security talent, a willingness to think outside the security hiring box is an advantage for Ellis, who oversees the security architecture and compliance of Akamai’s global network.

For starters, he’s mindful about overvaluing certifications. Hiring managers are often singularly focused on people with the right certifications, and many candidates looking for security jobs are stuck on a “certification treadmill,” he says. These job seekers accumulate credentials, often by jumping from employer to employer to climb the ranks.

“Are these good candidates or not good candidates? In a sense, they all look the same,” Ellis says. “It's hard to say, ‘here's somebody who really knows what they're doing and is deeply passionate.’”

In addition, there’s a lot of competition in the talent acquisition world for people with keyword-friendly resumes that cater to job requirements checklists, which adds to the hiring challenge. “Everybody gets overvalued simply because everybody is looking there. So you'll talk to somebody, and they're already talking to five other companies,” Ellis says. (See related story, Shortage of security pros worsens)

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