Mike Moniz, CEO of Circadence, co-founded the company to train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals using an immersive, artificial intelligence-powered training and assessment platform.
“We want to make sure that the experience, education and training our clients get and the cybersecurity professional gets … is not still content from two years ago taught in a classroom with boring flip charts,” Moniz said. “What we’re seeing is a projected 3 million[-person] shortfall in cybersecurity professionals. To date, there has not really been an efficient way to train people in cybersecurity.”
The company, which is self-financed, started 23 years ago in the gaming business before venturing into cybersecurity and eventually coming back to its roots to join the two areas. Circadence has 160 employees, but Moniz hopes to grow to 220 within the next several months.
The competition for top talent is tough in the AI and cyber fields, he said, but the company’s product attracts workers who fit Circadence’s innovative, dynamic culture. “Gaming is fun and it’s interesting, and you’re not going to work on an algorithm to look at actuarial data,” Moniz said. “You’re actually building very interesting content, you can see the product [as] it develops over time.”
Moniz draws on his background as an alpinist to help him lead the company. He co-holds the world speed record for ascending the 50 highest mountains in the United States in 43 days, and he has summited five of the famous Seven Summits, including Denali and Mount Everest.
“I’ve had some of my best breakthrough visions wandering around at 19,000 feet in Tibet by myself,” he said. “I have learned that there is a lot of value in spending time in an austere environment really thinking about the future. I do remind myself that you do need time to think, and thinking and getting out of the fray does allow for your creative energy to develop. That’s been an invaluable takeaway for me.”
Climbing has also taught him to prepare for the unexpected, whether he’s climbing a mountain or pushing Circadence to new heights. “There’s a lot you can plan for, but sometimes there’s an avalanche,” Moniz said. “You have to lean back on your skills, and your judgments in that moment are really based on all the experiences you have to make sure you can survive that.”
“It’s in our DNA to tackle problems that no one else wants to tackle,” he added. “If they say it’s impossible, that’s the first indication that we’re on the right track.”
Fast Five with Mike Moniz
When did you know you wanted to be a CEO?
I love the freedom of being able to create, build and grow, so it’s hard to do that if you’re an employee.
What is your favorite question to ask in a job interview?
Tell me about your family.
What’s the single most important trait for a leader?
Constantly evaluating where you’re at [and] listening to the people around you.
What keeps you up at night?
Things that are outside our control.
What’s the key to finding new opportunities for revenue?
We really try to embrace our customers like family and listen to them. They’re better at telling us what they need than we are telling them what they need.