Our primary mission at the Cyber Leadership Institute is to help aspiring cyber leaders accelerate their path into the c-suite and excel in those executive roles. In this inaugural interview in the Cyber Leaders on the Move series, we are pleased to feature the charismatic Ashwin Ram, a graduate from our flagship Cyber Leadership Program and Cybersecurity Evangelist at Check Point. The incredible story of Ashwin, who spent part of his childhood growing up in Lakeba (pronounced Lakemba), a remote island in Fiji’s Southern Lau Archipelago, comprised of six villages with only two vehicles in his time, is deeply inspiring, to say the least.
Among other strategic pillars, the Cyber Leadership Program helps cyber leaders fine-tune their strategic communications and persuasion skills, prerequisites to enlist board buy-in and earn a seat at the executive table. Ashwin, through the rigorous strategy design, demonstrated a strong grasp of these leadership essentials, helping him win the coveted prize and a scholarship worth 1500 Euro to advance his executive communication skills at the Insead Business School.
We had the privilege of sitting down with Ashwin to understand how CLP has furthered his leadership knowledge and skills.
How it all started
Ashwin Ram has been in the game for a while, boasting more than 15 years of experience helping several high-end enterprises fortify their defences against the menace of cybercrime. Like the majority of CLI graduates, Ashwin started in a technical support role. From there, he transitioned into various pre and post-sales roles. He describes venturing into the world of cybersecurity as a natural evolution. Over the years, Ashwin deepened his technical knowledge, rising through the ranks into his current role as a Cybersecurity Evangelist within the Office of the CTO at Check Point, a global cybersecurity giant. In this role, he regularly gives media interviews, presents at cybersecurity conferences, and advises CISOs and business executives.
The quest to demystify cybersecurity
During his 1.5 decades in the trenches, Ashwin has witnessed the rapid transition of cybersecurity, from a purely technical problem, into a broader business risk with far-reaching strategic implications. As this transition unfolded, however, Ashwin noted with frustration that most cyber professionals were stuck in their technical world, struggling to translate complex matters into the language of the business. Ashwin is never the one to sit down and hope for matters to resolve themselves. After scouring the internet for relevant courses, Ashwin decided the CLP was best suited to advance his career ambitions. What made the CLP stand out for him was the combination of weekly interactive calls with fellow cyber leaders, the intensive program delivered by seasoned CISOs, and a chance to join a fast-growing network of CISOs. The CLP also grants participants access to the Cyber Leadership Hub, an online repository comprised of hundreds of high-quality CISO tool kits. No other academic programs offer such an end to end ecosystem to help CISOs excel in their roles.
Once Ashwin joined the CLP, he quickly immersed himself into the program, actively engaging in the weekly calls and developing new relationships with fellow CLI classmates. Ashwin sought a network of peers, and he describes completing our CLP with that and more beyond his expectations.
Throughout the intensive eight weeks, Ashwin learnt about vital challenges CISOs face, as well as practical steps to prioritize transformation initiatives, accelerate budget approvals, and deliver unforgettable board presentations. Ashwin realized that a cyber resilience strategy must be rigorously tied to business goals, support digital transformation agenda and be understood by decision-makers. His technical expertise still mattered, but the CLP helped him strike an excellent balance between technology and business acumen. Ashwin now engages with CISOs and executives at a deeper level, pitching cybersecurity as a growth advantage instead of a compliance-driven necessary evil. He helps businesses align their strategy to board-approved risk appetite and, from there, chunk complex programs into realistic milestones.
Ashwin is a man who has found his deepest WHY; he exudes passion rare in the cyber world. In short, he loves his job. Ashwin describes being in his element when providing businesses with insights to develop their cyber strategies. Combining the insights he gets from the Check Point Incident Response team, research from the Check Point Research Team, and CLP leadership lessons has helped Ashwin morph into a well-rounded cyber leader.
A large part of Ashwin’s role involves presenting at and hosting events. It also requires a lot of media engagement. Ashwin says that the CLI has helped him develop talks that blend business and technical knowledge, and he can now articulate technical expertise in an easily consumable way. Throughout the CLP, participants get one-on-one mentorship from one of the course facilitators (seasoned CISOs). Ashwin says the active collaboration he had with Phil Zongo, CEO of CLI, helped during and beyond the program. Taking the knowledge, Ashwin says, and passing it onto others is an excellent benefit of the CLI community.
During a recent CISO event, Ashwin leveraged the storytelling lessons from CLP to help the audience zero into critical areas of high risk. Unsurprisingly, one of the participants, a senior executive from a large corporation, approached him and requested to take this conversation further. Had it not been for the CLI, Ashwin says he might not have felt empowered to have these sorts of conversations. He intends to continue blending his extensive cyber knowledge and proven leadership concepts as he takes his public speaking career to the next level.
When describing the value the CLP has added to him, Ashwin sums it up nicely. He says, “The missing link for a lot of CISOs is the business piece, and vice versa for business executives; it’s the technical piece. I am now in a great position, and the CLP absolutely completes that piece.”