On the RISE: Danny McNamee Takes Road Less Traveled to Successful Career

When Danny McNamee couldn’t get into graphic design, he had to find something new to study. That search led him to the career he now loves.

On the RISE is a column by the Security Industry Association (SIA) in partnership with Security Sales & Integration profiling the next generation of security industry leaders. This column is part of SIA RISE, a community that fosters the careers of young professionals in the security through networking and career growth events, education and professional development offerings and scholarship opportunities.

For this installment of On the RISE, SIA spoke with Danny McNamee, CISSP, CCSP, SICC, CEH, head of engineering and presales at Axians North America.

SIA: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Dany McNamee: My name is Daniel McNamee, but I prefer to go by Danny. I am a resident of Louisville, Ky., and consider it my home. I have a diverse range of interests, including carpentry, cars, fitness, outdoor activities and technology.

Despite my varied interests, I have honed my skills in security and am now working as the head of engineering and presales at Axians North America. With my busy schedule and constant desire to stay active, I am always working on something and never slowing down.

What first got you interested in security and safety as a career choice?

Interestingly, my journey towards a career in security was serendipitous. Initially, I had intended to study graphic design, but due to limited class availability, I was unable to pursue this path. Instead, I joined some friends in a networking course, which sparked my interest in networks and exploiting its restrictions.

From an early age I was always tinkering on computers, which led me to develop a keen interest in computer security and tech. Eventually, I came across a company that introduced me to the world of physical security and safety, which opened my eyes to a wider range of possibilities within the field. From that moment on, I was fully committed to pursuing a career in security, and I have remained in this industry to this day.

What has your career path been?

In a relatively short amount of time, I have gained extensive experience in various areas of the technology industry. My career really started during my position at a network operation center, where I was able to gain deep exposure to the process of upgrading a company’s infrastructure from frame relays to MPLS.

This experience gave me an understanding of not only the massive change that thousands of end client companies were undergoing, but also the importance of change management and data center management.

Later, I transitioned to a systems engineering role, where I was able to expand my knowledge of cutting-edge technologies such as Amazon Web Services and SD-WAN. During this time, I also honed my cybersecurity skills and helped clients increase their awareness and defense against ransomware.

This led me to my next opportunity, where I was able to delve into the field of physical security and immerse myself in its complexities. I spent many hours after work studying the technology in this field and learning the various components and mindset needed for success.

This prepared me for my next challenge in the transit/rail vertical, where I led a team to commission physical security subsystems and work on larger-scale projects with stakeholders.

All these experiences have culminated in my current role, where I am able to draw from a broad skill set and bring a comprehensive, big-picture perspective to each project I work on. Looking back, I now see that all these experiences have led me to where I am today, and I consider myself fortunate for the opportunities I have had.

Who has influenced or mentored you – either within the security field or outside?

Throughout my journey in the security field, I have been fortunate to have several great mentors who have helped me grow and succeed.

My first mentor in the cybersecurity field was my friend’s father, Joe Hoffmann, who introduced me to the field at a young age through his work responding to incidents at night while we all were playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Next, I had a mentor in the physical security industry who had many years of experience and taught me the right mindset and approach to deployments and client needs. Johnny Edwards was always utilizing me as the go-to technical liaison, and I learned a great deal from him, including the specific cabling needs for access control and other specialty devices which I had no experience in.

Following that, I was mentored by Elder Pinherio who gave me distinct project management insights and influenced my management skills to this day. Currently, my boss, Giuseppe Pastore, has been a mentor in a completely different arena. He supports me as I apply my skills and management experience to business as a whole and incorporated me in the ongoing business development.

Outside of the industry, my biggest support has been my mother, who has cheered me on throughout all my career and accomplishments.

Each of these mentors have provided me with guidance, support and encouragement and I am grateful for their contributions to my professional development.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

Despite my strong involvement in technology, I have a deep appreciation for nature. Growing up, I spent much of my time camping and exploring the outdoors. This love for nature has remained with me, and I continue to seek opportunities to spend time in the great outdoors.

Whether it be through hiking or kayaking, I find it important to disconnect from technology and enjoy some quiet time in nature – this time provides me with a refreshing way to relax and recharge.

What are some challenges and advantages of being a young professional in security?

DM: Being a young professional in security can be a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, people sometimes underestimate you because of your age and lack of experience. This will be overcome by working hard to earn their trust and proving your competence in the field.

Keeping up with all the new tech and security threats is also a big challenge. But on the flip side, being young means you bring a fresh perspective and are potentially tech-savvy. Plus, there is lots of room for growth and advancement in your career. So, all in all, it’s an exciting time to be in this field.

What advice do you have for young professionals just starting out in the industry?

First thing I’d suggest pending how far they are in the process: Go try as many things as possible. I think of this like taste testing – you may think you like a certain part of work, but you may end up not a fan of it once you get in. So try many things, and you’ll find the exact area you are most passionate about. Once this is established, be ready to dedicate yourself to the craft and put the time in.

Self-investment, on the job experience and putting yourself into situations that allow growth will be paramount into developing yourself to take on any type of situation that may present itself along your journey.

Continue to surround yourself with people that you can learn from and that want to grow you. This will make the day to day pleasant and full of experiences. I recently heard the following: “Obstacles don’t block the path; they are the path.” Take on these challenges, as they will most definitely be part of your path.

What do you enjoy most about being at your company – and in the security industry?

At Axians, I have found a supportive and dynamic work environment that has allowed me to grow and develop my skills in new ways. Our close-knit group of professionals, with diverse backgrounds, supplies many opportunities for collaboration and learning.

Additionally, I am impressed with the global network of Axians, which provides us with the opportunity to interact with different cultures and business units and bring innovative solutions to a wide range of verticals.

Regarding the security industry, the wonderful people I have met and the constantly evolving technology have impressed me. The ability to stay engaged and involved in the latest developments keeps my work challenging and interesting. I am grateful for the opportunities that Axians and the security industry have provided me with and look forward to continued growth and learning.

How do you define success?

Success, for me, is a constantly evolving concept. Currently, I define success as being fulfilled in my daily life and having a positive impact on others. Success is about not just achieving material goals or accomplishments, but about finding personal satisfaction and meaning in what I do each day. By focusing on making a positive impact on others, I am able to find a sense of purpose and fulfillment that I believe is at the core of true success.

How do you think the SIA RISE community can help foster the careers of young people in the industry? What does the program offer that is most important to you/your company?

The SIA RISE community is impressive for helping young people in the security industry get ahead. They host events and workshops to help young professionals learn from experienced industry leaders, develop new skills and grow their professional network.

The focus on professional development is key and the networking opportunities are a huge plus. Basically, if you are a young person in the security industry, the SIA RISE community is a must-check-out resource!

What are some key components of your role with Axians?

DM: As a member of the Axians team, I have several key responsibilities that are essential to my role. Firstly, it is important for me to have a thorough understanding of the technology and market players to support the selection and implementation of the most proper solutions.

I also lead the engineering team and play an active role in the review and creation of designs and proposals, ensuring that they are well informed and based on a comprehensive view of the available opportunities.

Additionally, I collaborate closely with clients in a presale’s capacity, using my knowledge and ability to communicate the benefits of various solutions and lead them in the correct direction that aligns with their business needs.

You have held a number of positions across the industry, including security commissioning manager and network operations center associate. What were some of the key things you learned from previous roles, and how have you leveraged them in your current position?

Throughout my professional journey, I have gained a diverse range of experience by holding various positions in the industry. My experience includes work with hardware and components, followed by a transition to networking in a large company where I observed established best practices. I then returned to a smaller engineering firm to conduct research and development and further refine my skills.

I have taken on increasingly challenging projects and led small teams on different engagements. Most recently, I was brought on to a large project and had the opportunity to build my own team from scratch during the pandemic. These experiences have provided me with a comprehensive understanding of the larger picture in a company, allowing me to approach challenges with a well-rounded perspective, drawing on the insights gained in each previous role.

You hold a number of industry certifications. What was your experience like earning these credentials, and how have they helped your career?

Earning industry certifications was a challenging but rewarding experience for me. I have obtained several certifications to deepen my understanding of the various specialties within the industry. Maintaining these certifications requires continuous education and effort, but it is worth it.

The certifications have helped me in numerous ways, including opening doors for new opportunities, demonstrating my competence in specific areas and giving credibility to my experience despite my lack of years in the industry. These certifications have been instrumental in advancing my career, and I believe that they will continue to be so in the future.

What key challenges, opportunities and/or trends do you see as most important to the industry, or more specifically to companies in the IT consulting space like Axians?

DM: The IT consulting industry, including companies like Axians, is facing a significant challenge in ensuring comprehensive cybersecurity for all devices on their clients’ networks. With the growing trend of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the attack vector is continuously expanding, requiring constant vigilance and adaptation to new threats.

Another challenge and opportunity in the IT consulting space is the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and business analytics. The industry must keep pace with the rapid development of AI and understand how it can be applied to meet their clients’ business needs.

At the same time, there is a growing demand for AI-powered solutions and expertise in their implementation. Additionally, the challenge of managing large data sets and utilizing the information effectively is also present.

What has been the most rewarding accomplishment or experience in your career in the security industry?

One of the most rewarding experiences in my career in the security industry has been the opportunity to work on diverse projects and interact with a wide range of individuals. These experiences have taken me to various locations, from the tops of skyscrapers to underground tunnels, and even allowed me to live in Hawaii for a couple of years.

The ability to explore new and exciting environments is a truly valuable aspect of this industry and something I cherish. I look forward to continuing this journey and pursuing new adventures in the future.

What are your predictions for where the security industry may be headed in the next 5-10 years?

In the next 5-10 years, the security industry is poised for significant growth and development in response to the advancements in technology and the emergence of new threats. AI and machine learning technologies are expected to play a crucial role in automating security processes and enhancing threat detection and response capabilities.

With the widespread adoption of cloud computing, cloud security will become a crucial aspect of the security industry, requiring attention and investment to secure cloud infrastructure and data. IoT is rapidly becoming an integral part of our daily lives, and with it comes the need for increased security measures to protect these devices.

The shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals is likely to persist, driving the need for automation and other tools to fill the gap. As the frequency of cyberattacks and data breaches continues to rise, it is likely that new laws and regulations will be introduced to improve cybersecurity and protect against these threats.

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