When Jeff Hackett started at Interac 13 years ago, he couldn’t have imagined he’d end up protecting millions of Canadians from fraud and data theft on a daily basis. Back then, he was a student employee; an economics major who had no experience with cybersecurity. Instead, he spent his days preparing presentations and drafting documents while contemplating whether to pursue an MBA. For him, a career in data security was not on the horizon.
Then, opportunity struck. The resident analysis and detection expert at Interac took a three-week vacation, and the company needed someone to fill in.
“Based on some of my experience and my analytical skillset, they asked if I wanted to learn how to do it,” Hackett recalls. “From then on, I started to work on real-time analysis and looking at trends.”
The rest is history. Hackett adapted quickly to his new role, and he hasn’t looked back since. Thanks to his hard work and initiative, he built a career at Interac, becoming the Senior Manager of Fraud, Risk, and Countermeasures and overseeing the company’s data security efforts. The secret to his success, Hackett says, was the unique learning environment that Interac offers.
“I think a lot of it was hard work and having that mindset to continuously learn and improve my knowledge and skills,” he adds. “We’re a pretty small company, so I had the opportunity to progress within the same team or move to the adjacent teams we worked with.”
Hackett’s initiation into the world of cybersecurity came at a time when the industry was just beginning to take the issue seriously. He recalls that companies would treat security as an afterthought, only implementing them near the end of product launches. His own interest in cybersecurity was piqued after his early experiences with the fraud team at Interac. Once he got a peek behind the curtain, he came to understand the broader effects of data theft and fraud.
“You don’t really realize that the whole purpose of security on the fraud side is to prevent organized crime,” he says. “You always picture a guy in a hoodie behind a computer, maybe in his parents’ basement or something, doing the attacks. The fraud that’s being committed is being used for very bad things, from drugs to money laundering.”
This new-found interest in cybercrime represented a sharp turn in Hackett’s career path. Instead of returning to school to pursue an MBA, he took a full-time job with Interac to help train new members of the company’s small fraud team. While he possessed an analytical skillset from his business training, Hackett says he initially lacked desirable technical skills. Fortunately, Interac prioritized continuous learning, and he was able to develop abilities that allowed him to chart his own course within the company.
“One of the great things about Interac was its professional development aspect,” he remembers. “It was focused on helping us learn what we wanted to learn, so that’s where I started to learn a lot more on the coding side and build my analytical skills. That pushed me forward on the security and fraud side and continued my growth there.”
But Hackett’s training wasn’t limited to business hours. He often took extra measures to keep one step ahead, pursuing online courses and staying informed of the latest cybersecurity trends. This diligent work ethic helped him hone his abilities, and his colleagues at Interac quickly took note.
“Having that initiative to learn independently has also helped me develop skillsets that helped me move up to my current position,” Hackett says. “I just continued to show my dedication to continuously improving and helping out with what’s best for the company.”
While Hackett is an industry veteran, young professionals can still learn from his example. As data theft and fraud have grown more complex with each passing year, Hackett says that resourcefulness and initiative are more important than ever, especially for those just entering the data security industry. With so many learning opportunities available, knowledge and insight are more valuable than ever before.
“It’s good to understand where your interests lie and to get as much knowledge as you can,” Hackett advises. “You want to be someone who’s on the front lines, identifying specific trends or vulnerabilities, rather than simply accepting the risk.”