“It’s great to be able to learn interesting things”

Luís Costa, Cybersecurity in-Country Manager

In his free time, he enjoys travelling and going to concerts, or riding roller-coasters. But you might just as well find him taking guitar lessons, brewing craft beer or taking his daughters to the Conservatory. Luís Costa is a Cybersecurity in-country Manager at Siemens. “I am very proud of the team I run. We are a team of 40 at the moment, but we are expanding to 100”, he says. When we ask him about his leadership philosophy, the word that comes out is confidence. “I try to promote autonomy so that people don’t need to be dependent on the hierarchy, so that they take the initiative to manage their own time. It’s the results that matter. And I think it works, because the fact that we have been growing and hiring so many people has to do with the work we have done up to now.”

Knowing how to learn and where to look

Based in Alfragide, the team Luís manages has global scale responsibilities. “We work a lot with the United States of America and Germany, but we need to be in touch with a large part of the planet”, he explains. Besides detecting malicious activity in the Siemens network, the team is responsible for prevention and protection against this same kind of activity.

The flexibility and adaptability inherent to Portuguese culture are at the root of the expansion of the team. “In other countries, people focus essentially on one task. We manage to cope with more latitude, we adapt more easily. Of course there is always the cost factor, but there are cheaper countries”.

As a result, Luís has been tasked with the challenge of finding the right people for each position. “We want people from different areas, from auditors to the more technical areas, such as systems administrators. Even if they don’t have this experience, at least they should be able to learn. In our field, what’s important is not to know everything, but to be able to learn and know where to look, which is also difficult”, he reinforces.

In our field, what’s important is not to know everything, but to be able to learn and know where to look, which is also difficult
Luís Costa, Cybersecurity in-Country Manager

From Topography to Information Security

Luís’ professional path is an example of that ability to learn. After completing high school he studied Topography for three years. “At that time computers, networks and programming were starting to be used a lot in that activity. I ended up falling in love with the area of Information Technology and doing tests to study Informatics in the university. I had to study a lot, mainly mathematics”, he recalls. Since he had been working ever since he was 16 years old, it took him about 12 years to complete the graduation, but he never gave up. “I would cease every chance I had to complete one more subject, between jobs or during vacations”, he tells.

He worked at the Portuguese public telecommunications operator when he finished the graduation. “Then I found out about a master degree on Information Security and Information Technology. It was taught at the same university where I had graduated in partnership with the Carnegie Mellon University, at Pennsylvania. It was subsidized by the state and the company in which I worked”, he explains. Completing the master degree allowed him to start working exclusively on cybersecurity.

Being close to people

“We like to hang out, the team gets along well”, Luís states proudly. We can sometimes find his team playing guitars, doing locks challenges and even assembling a 3D printer. “Around once a month we try to do an activity, or several at the same time, from craft beer tasting to lock picking (yes, literally picking locks). We are now assembling our first 3D printer, so that we can mess around a little more”, he says.

Luís likes to play a prank on colleagues who leave the team. “We have a poster with photographs of our team all over the world. When people leave, we replace their pictures with ponies. Now we use ones with pink ponytails and rainbows”, he jokes.

The irreversibility of things

Luís tends to be quite conservative in terms of digital habits. “I’m on social media, but I hardly publish anything. It’s a matter of the irreversibility of things. Once you publish things online, no matter how much you want to delete them, that information is never going to go away. I could have the safest system in the world, and even so my privacy could be violated”, he explains.

The way he treats the privacy of his daughters, aged 7 and 8, reflects this caution. “They don’t use my phone, because it’s a work phone, they only use their mother’s, occasionally, to play. They have access to their grandmother’s tablet, but under supervision, because I don’t want them seeing things they are not able to understand yet.” The example rubs off: “When somebody takes a photograph, I immediately warn them not to publish it, because my daughters are in it. They learn by observation and the result is that they don’t let themselves be photographed easily, and are constantly warning people not to share them”.

I went to work at a young age and I had to learn to fend for myself. I guess that translates into a constant need to learn more, never give up.
Luís Costa, Cybersecurity in-Country Manager

Restless by nature

Luís describes his routine as “very dynamic”, with “several meetings and conference calls on different topics” every day. In the morning he takes his girls to school and, once a week, in the afternoon, he accompanies them to the Conservatory, where one is learning the violin and the other studies dance. Meanwhile, Luís is taking guitar lessons with a musician friend. “It’s more talk than anything else, but I really enjoy it, and I am learning to read sheet music”, he says proudly.

With such an intensive routine, it’s not surprising that he finds it difficult to “shut down” in the evening. “I am very restless. I went to work at a young age and I had to learn to fend for myself. I guess that translates into a constant need to learn more, never give up. It’s great to be able to learn interesting things. If we speak again when I am 70, I’ll be thinking ‘I might still do a post-graduate of some sort’”. For Luís learning new things is part of his daily life and makes part of his spirit.