How Ergo is helping companies navigate the current cyberthreat landscape

22 Jun 2023

Gary Corley. Image: Ergo

Ergo’s Gary Corley discusses his role as head of cyber services and how the company is helping clients manage their data governance and cybersecurity abilities.

Gary Corley is the head of cyber services at Irish IT solutions provider Ergo. He has more than 25 years of experience working in the IT and cyber industries.

In his current role at Ergo, Corley describes his main duties as “advising customers on their security concerns, navigating the ever-evolving threat landscape, reducing the noise, and helping them in extracting the most out of their cybersecurity investment”, adding that “none of this is possible” without his team.

“It’s a challenging role and every day brings new lessons, but I get a real kick out of working with the team and the customers, continually trying to serve better.”

‘Companies need to be able to analyse the current threat landscape as applicable to them, while always looking forward to the next challenge’

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

I think it is difficult for anyone to speak about the cyber sector without referring to the ongoing and constantly changing nature of threats that both the private and public sectors face. Cyberattacks are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and complex. By the time any given threat is identified and resolved, multiple more have appeared in its wake, compounding the fast-paced nature of our sector and the issues, stress and in some cases, the financial implications it can have for businesses.

If we look at data breaches specifically, this area has always been a challenge for IT, but hybrid working over the pandemic exacerbated the issue and brought it front of mind. Working from home has become the norm for many, but it also brings with it new challenges.

So, Irish businesses face a significant dilemma balancing the need to empower people to work remotely, while still securing their data and systems to reduce their vulnerability to potential cyberattacks and breaches.

Another challenge for the sector lies in the transformational shift that is required to empower employees as end-users within a company. We know that human error is the primary cause of data breaches, so once companies invest in relevant technical controls and engage in proactive user training, it will be considerably easier for companies to mitigate the risk of cyber breaches.

Ultimately, companies need to be able to analyse the current threat landscape as applicable to them, while always looking forward with consideration for the next challenge. That’s where we come into the picture. A huge part of our role is to cut through the noise for our customers and to create the best possible security solutions for their specific needs.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

Data governance is a big one for us. We have seen a huge rise in demand for this within our sector and it’s an area we continue to invest in. Legislation around data and cyber enforcement has come to the forefront more recently so in this regard we are seeing greater demand than ever from our customers who understand and appreciate the business-critical nature of data governance and compliance.

Given how much data we now produce as both consumers and organisations, businesses must put in place data governance frameworks to ensure they are capitalising on their data as effectively as possible, but that they are also remaining data compliant. With every business sitting on growing volumes of data, this poses huge risks to the integrity of an organisation if not protected. In this age of cloud and digital transformation, the risks emerge faster and threaten more aspects of the business. Data compliance is also no longer just the responsibility of the CIO, it has huge implications for the entire C-suite, specifically the CFO and CEO in terms of how it can potentially impact the operational resilience of the business.

In an increasingly regulated sector, Irish companies must be better educated about the risks that exist and keep pace. Risks could be the loss of intellectual property, a governance failure around regulatory requirements or the leak of sensitive data inside the organisation to the outside world. Levels of exposure will vary, but it is imperative that companies have strong data governance protocols in place.

Companies can feel overwhelmed and uncertain of what they need in these fast-changing times, especially when it comes to data governance. It is my job and that of my team to educate them about the importance of data governance, what this entails and in turn, allay any fears or uncertainty they may have when it comes to this.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

My first few roles were in desktop and deskside support years ago. The days of Windows 3.1 and Windows 95! The best part of those roles was being in a position to help people and the interactive nature of the work at that time.

Working within the ICT sector, there’s always something new happening. I’ve always been passionate about learning and I can think of few other sectors with the pace of change and learning that this sector has.

I have a passion for travel and given the universal nature of IT, I have been blessed with the chance to work across most of Europe, London, Silicon Valley and most recently New Zealand for a few years. It’s brilliant to work within different settings, work with different people and cultures and take learnings from them all. In the end, I think we are all problem-solvers in our profession. I am constantly challenged in my role, which is something I relish and I love solving problems.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

I’m not the biggest risk taker, which might be for the best, considering the nature of my work, but I have had a few adventures. I stepped back from my career for a couple of years and taught yoga around the world. This started off with a training course in Mexico and then teaching in Thailand and India. There were a number of people who questioned what I was doing (including myself), but it was something I had to do – I wouldn’t let myself not do it.

What one work skill do you wish you had?

I think since the pandemic with more people working remotely, it can sometimes be hard to delineate between professional and personal time and knowing when to switch off. A skill I would like to hone a little further would be better time management.

‘True equality is about breaking down barriers and fostering both equity and equality at every level’

How do you get the best out of your team?

It is important to have the right people along with you on the journey. In order to have a collaborative environment that prospers, every team needs to have a shared goal with shared beliefs. For balance, it’s essential to have different perspectives on things from different people. I strongly encourage input and feedback. This ensures points of view are challenged and issues are dealt with holistically. I find that solo-runs ultimately don’t lead anywhere.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

Like a lot of other sectors, unfortunately there is still quite a bit of work to do in the IT industry when it comes to gender disparity. Technology has traditionally been a male-dominated sector, and while this is changing, it needs to happen at greater pace. By not having more women in our sector, we are missing out on a huge opportunity.

True equality is so much more than simply encouraging those who are underrepresented to think about a career in IT. It’s about breaking down barriers and fostering both equity and equality at every level – ensuring we are all on an equal footing. This goes beyond recruitment, and the mission for organisations should be to attract, retain and nurture a diverse team.

In terms of nationality, however, I’d like to think that we are well represented within our sector. For example, at Ergo, I’m proud to share my office with co-workers from literally every corner of the globe!

What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

“You can learn something from everyone.” I was told this when working in a bakery, putting myself through college years ago, although the wording was very different! Regardless of your role, you should be able to learn from every single person you meet.

Everyone has their own unique experiences, knowledge and insights, so in that sense, learning from a diverse range of people allows you to gain different perspectives and expands your understanding of the business you’re in, or just in life more generally. The more you can listen, the more rounded an individual you will become.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

‘Shoe Dog’, a memoir by the co-founder of Nike, Phil Knight, is the latest find. Some great insights into Nike, how it started, how it got its name and all the many challenges they faced to get it where it is now. Also, some real-life lessons and hard truths exposed by the author make you step back and think beyond the outward appearance of success.

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