'Judo is all about teamwork, just like a hack'

Manuel Mazarredo -
​​​​​​​Auditor en Ethical Hacker

Protecting people

‘I’ve always wanted to help people in whatever way I can. I used to be a project manager and in that role I ensured that people could get the best out of themselves so that we could make the project a success. Helping people is what I did in my volunteer work in Central America. It was about education, people and not just money, but teaching the right knowledge and skills for them to constructively and continuously improve.’

‘When I returned, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to join a large organisation such as NN. What I didn’t know at the time was that as an Auditor and Ethical Hacker, you’re also helping people. The goal is to create security for our customers and our colleagues and so for NN itself. The NN systems have to be robust enough for us to protect people’s finances, data and their privacy.’

Creating extreme conditions

‘During an audit, I ask questions to check whether processes, systems and the people who work with them are doing what they have to do. As an Ethical Hacker, I go a step further and I really test systems and people to the extremes. ‘Does it work in extreme conditions?’ is the question that I really ask and to answer those questions, I literally act like a criminal. I try to break into systems, data centres or sometimes just the office in the light of day, both digitally and physically. How people react shows how well prepared NN is for real criminality.’

‘I also help colleagues to make improvements. It’s not about finger-pointing, it’s about solving problems. That’s why I’m always probing. I can easily ask the why question five times. It’s sometimes pretty irritating, but that’s the only way you get to the nub of the problem and so find a good solution. People need to get out of their comfort zones for this. For me, a comfort zone is the same as laziness, getting out of it means growth.’

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Pushing the limits

‘I also like to push myself to extremes. I firmly believe that you can always do more than you think and that you can only develop if you challenge yourself, both physically and mentally. For example, I’ve completed several Ironman triathlons. The discipline and perseverance you need for an event like this are useful in life, as well as at work. I like to show people that everything is possible and that you can learn an incredible amount from pushing your limits. Whether that’s your own limits or the limits of an organisation or another system. It shows you where the shortcomings are, how you can become stronger and it teaches you to trust in yourself, or in the thing you’re pushing your limits for. Training for a triathlon is similar to conducting audits because in both cases you’re preparing for a really tough challenge. You’re training mind and body for a huge battle and you’re preparing people and an organisation for potentially the worst. Good preparation is half the battle.’
 
‘Another sport I enjoy and one that I’ve been doing for 33 years is judo. While a triathlon is a solo endeavour, judo is about interplay; the right movement at the right time, using the strength of your opponent, just like during a hack really. I also like to teach my son judo, mainly because it’s also about having respect for other people and about discipline and control. It’s a life lesson I’d like to teach him.’

Doing the right thing

‘I find it fascinating to discover how much similarity there is between work and home life. Of course, you’re a person who does what’s important to you. And sometimes you take your work home with you or you take what’s happening at home into work. I want to do the right thing in both situations, that’s how I was brought up. If I discover that my wife or other family members have a weak password, I encourage them to change it. And if I’m in a restaurant or at an airport and I notice an unattended computer, I get twitchy. I don’t touch anything of course, but I do look for the owner to give him or her a few words of unsolicited advice. I just can’t leave it.’
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