ITA Spotlight: Geoff Robinson, Managing Consultant, Carve Systems
Monday, June 17, 2019
Posted by: Kaylin Berg
Geoff Robinson, Managing Consultant, Carve Systems @CarveSystems
Geoff Robinson is a long-time Chicagoan and Managing Consultant at Carve Systems. Carve develops and deploys cybersecurity engineering expertise to support major software/IoT initiatives in Fortune 500 organizations. We provide technical leadership, leveraging maturity frameworks to maintain executive visibility into risk, and provide a suite of technical services required to assure secure product outcomes.
Chicagoan by birth or relocation?
I was born in Atlanta and moved up to Chicagoland at 10 years old. I’ve been in and around Chicago ever since. I’m now settled into the Ravenswood neighborhood.
If you relocated, what brought you to Chicago?
My father spent 36 years following a career at the old Kemper Insurance Company. He lived in at least a dozen cities over the years. We came to Chicago when he moved to their Long Grove headquarters. He ended up relocating again, to Florida, with his division of Kemper, before it was sold to Chicago-based Unitrin (now branded as Kemper Corp). I was out of the house by then and stayed behind.
How did you come to work with Carve?
Carve was founded in 2011, so I certainly haven’t been at Carve my whole career! Much of the technology we specialize in didn’t exist when I started out. That in itself makes it an interesting place to be.
I spent the first era of my career as a software developer in the commodities markets here in Chicago. I had been working with a small fixed income options trading group for about five years when some unexpected market volatility around November 2016 blew us out.
It turns out that when your firm runs out of money, you have to find another job. I was looking for a new challenge and Carve hit all the right notes for me.
What about Carve was appealing?
The consulting role was really attractive. After a decade plus of heads down engineering work, it has been nice to get out into our client’s offices, analyze what they are building both from a technical and organizational perspective, and have an impact.
I’m also a bit giddy about hacking on all the different technology stacks that we touch in the mobile, cloud, and IoT realms. At the end of the day, I’m most comfortable doing things that don’t have a manual yet. At Carve we get to write the manual on security for a lot of these dynamic technologies.
I have to give a lot of credit to my colleagues — the culture at Carve is collaborative. We are addressing hard problems, and it’s crucial to lean on each other’s expertise and experience.
Which achievement at Carve are you most proud of?
I have prevented at least one massive data breach from occurring by identifying a critical security vulnerability prior to a product rollout. A breach would have affected millions of customers and have had tremendously negative consequences for the client.
I cannot claim that this has been the most impactful security win for Carve, however. (Don’t ask, I can’t talk about it.)
What’s your outlook on the local tech industry?
Chicago has been a national center for agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation since the 1800’s. Emerging IoT technologies will be transformational in all of these sectors. We should leverage our deep roots to stay at the center of these “connected” industries.
We have started down this road, but the 5G cellular rollout will be a significant enabling technology. Carve is fortunate to include major US telecoms as clients, and we see a number of these products as they are being developed. There is a lot of effort and attention here, but I’m not sure the world really understands what the right thing to build is … yet.
Chicago has an opportunity to decide what happens next in this space.
What do you think are the top issues facing the Illinois tech community?
Diversity. I think the tech community’s demographics should reflect the demographics of the city and state. I’m not sure that’s where we are right now. We need to ensure we are providing the right opportunities to students who already live here, and actively work to attract a diverse workforce from out of state.
What is the one thing that keeps you up at night?
Did we overlook any critical security vulnerabilities in our clients’ products? Will that oversight be because we erred in our analysis or because the client didn’t ask us for what they really needed? Is Carve doing enough to mitigate these risks?
What kind of technology could you not live without?
Reverse engineering toolkits.
If money was no object, what would your dream job be?
Playwright and actor … assuming I’d be any good at these things! I have done some of this in the distant past, and have been onstage in Chicago. Currently, I have my toe in the water of the Chicago theater community as a board member at About Face Theatre. Very happy to do what I can to support the mission and make live theater happen in the city.