New technologies, like the cloud, constantly put the safe-keeping of our personal information at risk. Take the Equifax breach that put 142 million consumers’ personal information in jeopardy for example – danger can potentially lurk around every corner of the internet, yet many companies still haven’t learned.
There are several lessons every company can learn from the Equifax breach that will prevent fines and even save the careers of CEOs. Manan Shah, the 24-year old founder of cyber security firm Avalance Global Solutions, is one of the top cyber security experts, but his path to the top was far from traditional.
A high school drop out and former hacker, Shah had to overcome run-ins with the police and the disappointment his parents expressed, in order to rise above and find himself, and then eventually success on the other side of the fence. Here are the X pillars of success that Shah credits to his successful journey thus-far.
Don’t be afraid of walking outside of the lines.
Shah wasn’t the best student early in his academic career, often skipping class and failing to complete his homework assignments. In an effort to try to to change Shah’s direction, his parents purchased a home computer.
“My parents bought a computer with the intention that it would get me to focus on school. What it ended up doing was introduce me to programming and I became obsessed with cyber security and hacking, spending entire days consuming as much video content as I could find,” recalls Shah.
While traditional education was the path that was expected to be followed, Shah walked outside of the lines and focused all of his time and energy on learning as much as he could about computers — becoming a self-taught coder and hacker. While not a popular choice in the eyes of his parents, it’s one that he was extremely passionate about.
Trust your gut-instincts and follow your heart.
Shah’s interest in hacking eventually caught up to him, and it found him in trouble with local police. While he knew he needed to make a drastic change, he also knew in his gut that he could take this interest and use it in a positive manner.
“I took a class on ethical hacking back in 2009, which was put on by Ankit Fadia, whom as a self-proclaimed ethical hacker. This was the proof I needed to justify my decision – I knew there was an opportunity for me to find success in this field, so I decided to dedicate all of my time and energy into becoming a ‘hacker’ that people would respect,” explains Shah.
Trusting your gut is something all entrepreneur eventually have to come to terms with. If you lead with your heart, it can result in finding your true calling.
Offer your skill-set for free to build a portfolio of testimonials.
Shah further enhanced his personal education by learning more programming languages and learning as much as possible about cyber intrusion prevention techniques. He then leveraged this knowledge and skill-set to help companies at no-cost.
“In the beginning, I was assisting the cyber security departments of police agencies and private organizations — but I never charged any fees for my work. I knew that if I could provide a great service and truly help my clients, that the testimonials it would generate would end up paying off ten-fold down the road,” says Shah.
This approach helps you build one thing — credibility. In highly competitive industries, such as cyber security, results matter. Offering your expertise for free in the early stages allows you to remove many initial barriers you would face if you were charging a fee for your time.
Ask your satisfied clients for referrals.
Referrals have been one of the biggest contributors to the success of Shah’s company, and all it took was having the courage to ask for them. This is something that every business with clients should do, as it can translate into instant sales and revenue.
“One day I decided to contact all of our clients and I simply asked if they knew of any other companies that they thought would benefit from working with my firm. This led to a large influx on interest and new clients,” said Shah.
While emails and surveys can all incorporate a referral system, there is nothing more powerful and effective than a personal phone call. Companies are going to be much more inclined to give you a referral if you take the time to reach out personally, rather than just send an email. You are essentially putting them on the spot, and if you provide exceptional service to them, then they will feel obligated to give you a referral.