In the latest edition of Life @ Netskope, we sat down with James Stocks, a Staff Software Engineer who is part of Netskope’s growing team in Belfast, Northern Ireland. We chatted with James about some of his favorite aspects of working at Netskope and why Belfast has become a hotbed for cybersecurity talent. Here’s our conversation:
How do you describe what you do in your role to friends and family?
I often relate my job to cybersecurity incidents in the news, for example, a couple of months back when Ireland’s entire health service got hit by ransomware. Events like that put cybersecurity front and centre for a lot of people. The whole area is growing in terms of public recognition actually. Here in Belfast, we have a number of cybersecurity and financial firms opening engineering departments and cybersecurity is one of our local success story industries; companies are always trying to hire people here. The national TV even has adverts for training programmes, like if you’re a baker or a banker, you can go through these government programmes and move over to IT, specifically including cybersecurity. A lot of people have no idea about software development or computing in general but my family and friends all see this advertising constantly, so I can kind of point to that and say, “That’s what I’m doing.”
Why has Belfast become such an attractive place for cybersecurity and tech companies?
Maybe twenty or twenty-five years ago there was not much software development here. But in the past couple of decades there have been some very, very good indigenous technology companies that sprang out of our local universities. And then gradually those indigenous companies got bought by American and international firms that realised these companies had market-leading products and were full of really great people. Then we slowly started to get some US and international telecom and financial institutions set up in Belfast. The last 10 years in particular have seen a flurry of companies trying to get a presence in Belfast. Especially multinational financial institutions, engineering companies, and companies in the DevOps space. The big one that has sprung up in Belfast is cybersecurity. Companies have found that we’re very good engineers, product managers, project managers, and people with good domain knowledge who know the cybersecurity space, the technologies, and know the threats. It’s a desirable place for companies to be able to grow staff and the cybersecurity space is flourishing here at the moment.
What’s your favorite thing about Netskope and why?
One thing that really impressed me is that, when I started, my manager sent out my welcome email and I got so many personal replies to it. People were replying only to me, they weren’t CCing their team or anything for visibility, they were just personally reaching out to me and saying, “Hey, welcome aboard! We like it here!” Or like, “Let me know if you have any questions!” I’ve never experienced it. That element of the culture certainly impressed me! From a technical perspective, we have a very strong system for deploying and testing code too. Coming in and seeing that all these systems were already set up, that was really cool. It makes life so much easier when making enterprise-scale software because we have all of the internal tooling that enables you to make changes, test, and deploy. The way things are set up here, you have access to everything you need and it’s well organised, and not the complete bureaucratic mess that you might expect at our scale.
What’s one thing you’d like to check off your bucket list?
I’d like to do some more traveling, more specifically going to Japan. Especially because we can get pretty good value flights to Japan, so the major cost is just covering the accommodation. The reason we didn’t do it in prior years is because we were growing the family, so maybe in a few years when our child is old enough to appreciate it, we can have a trip to Japan.