Getting to Know LightEdge’s Rob Bennett

Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with—virtually speaking, of course—Rob Bennett of LightEdge. Bennett, who has worked at LightEdge for four years, is the IT service-management company’s security manager and his duties include eliminating threats, evaluating risks and training staff. Our goal was to learn a little more about Rob, LightEdge and its relationship with OSI. Here’s an edited version of our 20-minute conversation.

Question: What did you want to do professionally when you were growing up? What did you want to be?

Answer: Retired. (Laughs.) Actually, I was interested in aerospace. I was headed in that direction. I was in the Marine Corps working on F-18s and other aircraft that were in service at the time. It was going to be a natural progression to NASA. Unfortunately, the space program had its downturn around the time I was getting out, which led me to have to find a new dream. A friend of mine at the time who was getting out was into computing and networking and showed me a few of the things he was doing with his 286-based processor and computer. I ended up making the switch career-wise to IT. When you think about it, an aircraft is just a flying network.

When I got out of the service, I ended up taking professional courses and got my bachelor’s degree in telecommunications management, and I started my IT career.

Q: Where did you go to high school, and what were you like then? Describe yourself at that time.

A: I went to high school here in the Kansas City area. I had a lot of different interests, from sports to the naturalists program. I was also able to do some work-study courses, and I really branched out my junior and senior years, doing many different things.

I took a little break between high school and the military. Having that well-rounded education got me ready for the real world.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about your Marine Corps experience?

A: I was in from ’89 to ’95. Active duty. Lots of interesting things happened in the world during that time. My unit was MALS-11 (Marine Air Logistics Squadron-11). We were the only Marine Corps unit to win the Department of Defense award for maintenance excellence. The Air Force usually wins that. We were the only unit to have taken it away from them for a year, and it’s an award that’s been around for 50 years or so. 

We took our work seriously—keeping the planes flying and protecting not only the pilots but the country, too.

Q: Please tell us a little bit about the company you work for, LightEdge. 

A: We’re a solution provider, primarily in the data-center space, but we can assist clients in their needs in other areas as well. Being a center provider, we have facilities throughout the United States—Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Missouri, North Carolina—so there are many growth opportunities. We are looking at assisting clients during the migration processes to cloud environments. Also, when a customer has questions about securing their environment or having the proper setup, we can assist with that.

Q: What’s a typical workday for you?

A: I start my day looking at alerts and advisories to see what’s happened overnight and then I actually hunt for threats and a solution to them. I see if we have any indicators compromised. There are a lot of meetings during the day. I provide guidance on security tasks and give presentations to assist with awareness. I also gather more details on incident-response plans and other tasks.

2020 was the year of incident response. If you had an incident-response plan that covered everything that happened, you’re on the ball. You’re in that 0.5 percent, especially considering the pandemic, the hurricanes, the other interesting weather events and the civil unrest. There was definitely a lot of planning last year, along with incident response. 

Q: What’s the most challenging thing about your job?

A: Probably keeping on top of everything and deciphering the information so that people who are not in the IT field can understand what’s happening. For example, a lot of people don’t understand how something like solar winds ( made famous for the recent breach of the US Government network)

could come into play, and you have to translate that for them. Or Egregor-type ransomware and explaining how a group who’s launching these types of attacks on businesses and individuals, you have to think of them as corporations. They have a job to do. They have a task they are doing and revenue they are trying to generate. Once you get into those terms, it’s pretty easy to explain from there.  

Q: What’s the most rewarding thing about your job?

A: When I actually get some sleep. (Laughs.) Seriously, the most rewarding thing is if, at the end of the day, you and your customers have not been breached. That’s a nice feeling. That’s a good day. 

Q: Let’s talk a little bit about LightEdge and OSI’s relationship. For how long have the two companies been collaborating, and what does OSI do for you all?

A: The relationship was established before I was here, and I want to say at least four years before then. I think we are approaching the eight- to the ten-year mark.

The relationship started with OSI taking phone calls for our support teams and making sure we had tickets created for the next level of engineers to address. Then it morphed into more hands-on work. We’ve actually had a security focus with OSI recently, using firewall- and protection-type employees.

It’s an ever-changing situation for us, and it’s nice to have OSI at our disposal.

Q: In what way has OSI helped your company the most?

A: Their flexibility has been great. They really understand our changing business needs and they have the ability to provide a variety of different types of employees. You can tell they take a lot of pride in being thorough and hiring the right people. We can usually make a decision off of the first round of interviews with the talent they provide us.

Q: Would you recommend OSI to other companies and, if so, why?

A: I have recommended OSI to a couple of colleagues. When I hear a colleague talking about a unique need that could be a temporary or long-term role in their organization, and they’re looking to be cost-conscious, or they need someone who can translate English to Spanish or vice versa, I’ll perk up and say, “You know what? I know someone who can help you.”