Employee Spotlight: Mezcal with Michael Roytman
Legend has it that Kenna Security’s Chief Data Scientist, Michael Roytman, was concocted by combining four ounces of math, three-to-six cups of problem solving, and an unconfirmed measurement of curiosity, heated at 450 degrees Fahrenheit in a mid-sized drum coffee roaster. We may never know the exact ratio of ingredients that led to the creation of Michael, but we’re super keen on what we do know about him.
Since 2012, Michael has used his expertise in and passion for data science to help solve a critical problem: how can companies make their businesses safer in the face of millions of security vulnerabilities? Michael’s expertise, passion, and commitment have helped Kenna Security pave the way for a new breed of vulnerability management—one that can make a tangible difference for customers tired of being chronically reactive to vulnerabilities.
Of course, Kenna Security and our customers aren’t the only ones that have benefited from Michael’s unique talents. A natural entrepreneur, Michael has led the creation of two projects: TruckSpotting, a food truck location app, and a cloud-based data management platform known as Dharma Platform. The latter has been used by major humanitarian groups, including the World Health Organization, Médecins Sans Frontières, and Habitat for Humanity. Given his resume, it comes as no surprise to us that he was named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in 2017.
There’s no shortage of interesting facts to learn about Michael, and we can think of no better way to learn more than a brief round of questions and answers. Let’s jump in.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I was born in Germany—specifically, East Germany (German Democratic Republic) at the time. I then lived in Ukraine for a while and spent my summers with my grandparents in St. Petersburg, Russia. Now I’m based in Chicago. So, the short answer: I grew up kind of all over the place.
Q: How did you come into this field of work?
A: By chance, really. I’ve always been fascinated by algorithms and mathematics from a very early age. I spent some time in a post-graduate program in operations research, which is essentially the study of algorithms and data science (before it was an established field of study). Soon after my first job in fraud detection, I started looking out for smaller companies in Chicago. That’s when I ran into Ed Bellis and Jeff Heuer. Kenna Security (at the time called Risk I/O) was just a tiny company, but I immediately fell in love with how they worked and the problem they were trying to solve. I didn’t know a thing about computer vulnerabilities at the time, but I knew that the problem they were trying to solve was one of the best examples of signals and noise solutions.
Q: What keeps you motivated to get out of bed and come into work every morning?
A: Every morning, I think about what Kenna can accomplish if we’re successful. I believe we’re enabling an incremental increase in the ease of doing business over the internet all over the world. We’re essentially helping to build the infrastructure for the internet—think back to the highway system built in the 60s. By helping our clients be more efficient and effective with their security practices, we’re taking important steps towards a better, easier, and safer environment for everyone.
Q: Why is Kenna Security the best place you’ve ever worked?
A: To me, Kenna Security is a model of a blameless organization, where the goal is to get everyone to do their work with as little stress and as much efficiency as possible. And that gets modeled from the executives all the way down. I could tell you stories where our team was close to shutting down servers on a Saturday and Ed Bellis’s unwavering response is, “How can I help?” There’s a true servant-leader mentality on the executive team. While there are definitely deadlines, time pressures, and complex customers, there’s no blame shifting, only support. I truly believe this kind of culture is what makes a company successful. It’s about creating an environment where everyone can rise to their full potential and feel supported.
Q: Do you have any hidden talents?
A: I think my best talent is being able to read and learn things very quickly. I count myself lucky, because I think that skill is invaluable in this day and age.
I’m also happy to offer my expertise as a coffee guru. I’ll let you find out more about my coffee-related endeavors (and other fun facts about me) in a recent alumnus interview with Georgia Tech.
Q: What are a few must-have songs on your road trip playlist?
A: The last road trip I took was a trip to Detroit and back on a Sunday and I listened to roughly eight hours of Radiolab. I think for a road trip, I’d mix it up with some good podcasts and music. The latter may depend on the weather. If it’s raining, perhaps some downbeat, slow raps from the early 2000s (J Dilla). If it’s sunny out, I’d probably opt for a mid-2000s indie playlist.
Q: What job would you be terrible at?
A: Sales. I am terrible at forecasting opportunities.
Q: What’s the title of the current chapter of your life?
A: KREAM: Kenna Rules Everything Around Me
Q: If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
A: I think I’d spend more time rebuilding my 1988 Porsche race car. I’ve been working on it for at least six years and I wish I had more time to devote to it. I took it out to a racetrack for the first time ever last year and ended up doing quite a number on many of the parts that weekend.
Q: If you had a warning label, what would it say?
A: Easily distracted.
Q: Coffee or tea?
Q: Fiction or nonfiction?
Q: Asking questions or answering questions?
A: Asking questions
Q: Cassette tape or CD?
A: Cassette tape
Q: Superman or Batman?
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