AJ Cooke keeps the world safer as a threat hunter on Bridges’ Security & Counterintelligence Team. AJ is also a founding member of Bridges Drone Club and enjoys distance running, swimming, and being a husband and father of two girls.
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Sarah Woods: Ok, how did you get interested into technology initially?
AJ Cooke: I got interested in technology, I guess, when I was little. When all of my friends would be playing with toys or my brothers and cousins would be playing with toys, I’d be the guy taking apart the telephone and putting it back together. I’ve always had an interest in how things worked. I like to take things apart. I was the person that always touched things. Fortunately, I still get to do that.
Woods: How did that show up in what you did next in school and…?
Cooke: School wasn’t really a great thing for me. I was never a big fan of that. I kind of always thought I’d do something that didn’t really require a whole lot of formal education, so I did school kind of the hard way and waited until after I already had one daughter. I’d finished up a degree, had another daughter, and finished up another degree. Both of those were IT degrees, so I guess that kind of formalized my path.
Woods: What brought you to cyber, and how did that evolve?
Cooke: I turned to cyber after another employer of mine decided that they were going to take sort of a fundamentally different approach to security than I had. At that time, I was a physical security guy doing data centers and putting in all the cool locks, biometrics, alarms, cameras, and stuff like that. They decided that they didn’t really see an interest in that, so I learned the cyber side real fast because I needed a paycheck, and that worked out pretty well.
Woods: Tell me about what you’re doing at Bridges now.
Cooke: Right now, I am kind of, as I’ve always liked to do all along, just catching the bad guy. Right? Helping them with their insider threat program and looking for things that seem out of the ordinary to determine if we need to take a closer look.
Woods: Can you talk about general technologies that matter in your area?
Cooke: Very general technologies. We look at user behavior analytics. Really, we take vast amounts of data, try to recognize the patterns, and then see if something warrants further investigation.
Woods: Can you tell me what you like about working at Bridges overall?
Cooke: My favorite thing about working for Bridges overall is that, when I wake up on a Monday, I’m excited to go to work, and it’s not something that I dread. I enjoy the people I’m around and the mission that I’m supporting. Chuck, C3, and the leadership team — they’re easy; they’re approachable; they take suggestions, and they give good advice. It’s been really comfortable, and I feel like I’m part of a bigger team. It’s good times.
Woods: Where do you think you will have the biggest impact in the next few years?
Cooke: I really would like to help our customer make some big discoveries. If that does happen, the best thing about that is nobody will ever know about it! We try to keep our customers out of the news. If we can help them with that, that’d be great. If we can take some of their really complicated processes and whittle them down into something simpler or take a computer to do the job of 100 different analysts and speed things up for them, that’d be great. So that should keep them out of the news for a few years.
Woods: If you met somebody who was interviewing to come work at Bridges, what would you want to tell them?
Cooke: I would like them to know that it’s a good place for people that have interest in the up-and-coming things, the latest things, the super duper trendy machine learning and behavioral analytics type of topics. It’s also a good place for people with good people fundamentals and soft skills. So that’s one of the things that I liked a lot. It is a good blend of technical expertise, but I also work with a lot of soft skills and human behavior professionals.