Profile Interview: Ian Glover

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As Ian Glover prepares for retirement, Eleanor Dallaway is treated to the tales of his impressive and colorful contributions to industry. This is the story of Ian Glover…

Ian Glover is the ultimate professional, the ultimate techie, the ultimate gentleman. 

When I walk into The Ivy Café in Marylebone, London, to meet the CREST President for lunch, Ian greets me, suited and booted, with a warmth and friendliness that is understated and subtle, but definitely there.

Ian is not one of these larger-than-life characters that the cybersecurity industry has become renowned for. He’s not gregarious, he’s not loud and he’s not particularly confident. The latter is an opinion he holds of himself. I tell him I’d describe him as “quietly confident,” but he shrugs that off. “I’m not particularly confident, but that’s a good thing. If you think you’re good, you’ll stop trying,” he reasons.

What Ian lacks in extroversion, however, he makes up for with kindness, drive and passion. As he prepares for retirement (take two), I’ll attempt, in just four pages, to do justice to the man who has given so much to the industry. 

“Four pages?” Ian asks, incredulous. “I was expecting more like a three-line obituary.” He grins. Ian is a serious character, but that demeanor is often interjected with flashes of humor, sarcasm and a big grin. I’ve known Ian for a decade or so, and for years, I sometimes found it hard, thanks to his incredibly dry sense of humor, to distinguish when he was serious and when he was joking. I’m not entirely confident that I’ve got that fully figured out yet.

His modesty aside – and modesty is most definitely a trait he wears with the same loyalty that he wears a suit – it’s impossible to cram Ian’s achievements and accolades into just four pages. I had planned to ask Ian what he will get up to when he retires as President of CREST at the end of this year. However, as the extent of Ian’s extra-curricular life “projects” are revealed throughout our three-hour lunch, I instead ask: “how on earth did you manage to hold down a job while juggling all of these other projects?”

The Projects Chapter

I don’t have enough column space to tell you about all of the “projects” Ian juggles, but let me give you a flavor. He is president of the Bloodhound 1K Club and headed up the project that built the Guinness Book of Record’s largest k'nex structure replica model in the world. “My idea was to encourage young people to take basic principles and then let their imagination run wild. The idea I had was to build the largest k'nex model in the world to demonstrate the concept and promote inclusion in the workforce.” In partnership with The Royal British Legion Enterprises, the model was built by ex-military personnel and invited members of the public. “It has been on display at Coventry Museum since it was built, but I recently moved it to the ex-Hornby site in Ramsgate.”

Ian is president of the Bloodhound 1K Club and headed up the project that built the Guinness Book of Record’s largest k'nex structure replica model in the world
Ian is president of the Bloodhound 1K Club and headed up the project that built the Guinness Book of Record’s largest k'nex structure replica model in the world

Then there’s the Voice School in Tanzania, which has an inclusion program specializing in providing education to young women and people with Albinism. “My wife and I help to support and promote the Voice School. We are planning to use the school as one of the trials for the community-led cyber awareness program as part of the Gates Foundation’s ‘Financial Inclusion for the Poor’ program we are working on at CREST.”

Ian is also building a 1966 Triumph Motorcycle to run at the Bonneville Speedweek on the salt flats in Utah.

It dawns on me that there is a common denominator across these projects – the drive to build things and the desire to make a difference. “Making a difference to people is ultimately what I want to be remembered for,” says Ian, as he contemplates his imminent retirement. “I’d like people to remember me for having integrity, for genuinely caring and for making a difference. That would be a nice trilogy, wouldn’t it?”

The Retirement Chapter

Ian is cautious when it comes to exuding emotion and is undoubtedly a little guarded when discussing more sentimental subjects. At one point, he vocalizes this caution, “you’re really trying to dig deep now, aren’t you?” he teases, smiling, but it hangs there like an accusation. The topic of his retirement draws out that emotion. I notice a gulp that’s a little too pronounced and a sadness in his eyes. “It’s not the first time you’ve retired, though, is it Ian?” I say light-heartedly, referring to his first attempt at retirement after the sale of his consultancy to Siemens in 2001. “I was wondering if you’d remember that,” he grins, “it’s a lot harder to retire from something you love, though,” he admits with an abundance of sentiment.

“I’ll miss the really hard questions I get asked. I’ll miss those challenges,” Ian admits. “I’ll have 15 things going on in my mind, and to me, they all fit together. To everyone else, they’re disparate.” As someone who has worked with Ian on many workshops and whitepapers, I can completely vouch for this confession. Ian will have a vision; in his mind, he’ll have multiple components that fit perfectly together, but only he has the algorithm to make this happen.

Ian is also building a 1966 Triumph Motorcycle to run at the Bonneville Speedweek on the salt flats in Utah
Ian is also building a 1966 Triumph Motorcycle to run at the Bonneville Speedweek on the salt flats in Utah

I won’t miss the bureaucracy,” Ian counters. “The operational elements have never been as exciting for me either. I always just want to build the next thing.”

Retirement ‘take-one’ lasted a grand total of five days. That was 13 years ago, though, and the second time around, Ian seems a lot more committed to the concept. “My fear is that I’ll find something I really like doing, and it will become another job,” Ian admits.

Ian has recently taken up horse riding. That, I point out, is a great example of a hobby that will be just that. Don’t be so sure, though: “There’s always a way to do things for the common good,” says Ian, “a way to scale these things… like horse riding for the handicapped.”

The challenge, Ian tells me, is that “none of the books tell you what to do after retirement. There’s no chapter for that. That’s a chapter I have to write myself.” This sentence strikes me as both poetic and poignant. With his walls (partially) down, Ian admits, “Retirement does feel daunting. I’ve neglected the part of my life where you build social pillars. I have promised my wife I’ll try harder this time.”

Ian’s wife gets a fair amount of airtime during our interview and his warmth ramps up significantly each time he mentions her. “She’s amazing, my wife,” he tells me, smiling. We talk about his children too, who have similarities to Ian despite not following his footsteps into cybersecurity. “My daughter likes to make a difference and my son likes to make a sale,” he tells me proudly.

The CREST Chapter

For 13 years, Glover has had the role of president of CREST, the international not-for-profit accreditation and certification body representing the technical information security market. His work there has been, without doubt, a labor of love and as he reflects on those 13 years, he doesn’t hesitate to declare his team as his proudest achievement within that role. “They’re just really good, the most impressive team,” he gushes. “The team has truly embraced not-for-profit and work together for the common good.”

The competence of his team has made his staged exit (retirement planning has been two years in the making) so much easier as he has “consciously pushed members of my team forward as I’ve intentionally been less visible. I’m leaving it in capable hands, I’ll try not to interfere,” he smiles, a mixture of jest and sadness.

Ian candidly explains why he isn’t interested in a NED role once retirement kicks in. “People can either take your advice or they don’t,” and that ambiguity and perhaps lack of control is something that does not appeal to Ian.

“None of the books tell you what to do after retirement. There’s no chapter for that. That’s a chapter I have to write myself.”

I ask him if he has any unfulfilled objectives at CREST. “The way we deliver our exams is challenging to scale at large,” he notes. “We’ve implemented technology to deliver exams securely at scale. We offer exams in 50 countries but at a lower level. To deliver higher-level exams, we had to create a new platform.”

Ian’s proud of the level of influence that CREST has earned. “It has exceeded my expectations,” he tells me. “CREST is run more like a business, less like a non-for-profit and it generates enough cash to really influence.”

(One of) the First Chapters

Rather unorthodox, I started this interview at the end of the story, or at least in its current chapter. So let me now take you back to meet a young Ian, raised in Feltham, whom he describes as “not very academic, but with a passion for space and a dream of becoming an astronaut.

“I think I was a bit dyslexic at school,” Ian shares, “but I’ve worked hard at that.” Is there anything Ian doesn’t work hard at? I think not.

Further education had featured heavily in Ian’s book since that chapter when he left school. “I was given the careers advice that if I could get a job, I should leave, and if I couldn’t, I should stay on… so I got a job,” Ian says, matter-of-factly. Leaving school wasn’t the end of Ian’s formal education, however.

At 16, Ian got a job as, not in, the IT department at a publishing company. It was the publisher’s first-ever computer system. “Back then, people were worried about computers taking white-collar jobs, so I thought if I worked with computers, I’d be OK.” He may have been a one-man band, but he recalls that role fondly. “It was great fun, but I was not learning more than I taught myself.” He was supplementing his on-the-job learning by taking himself off to evening classes and funding his own place on a college computer science and coding course.

The MoD Chapter

He considers himself “very lucky” to have scored his second “proper job” at the Ministry of Defence. “I went to work for the defense operational analysis establishment as a computer operator. They paid for my college work and gave me almost unlimited access to computer power.”

Ian later goes on to tell me that, without a doubt, this job changed his life. “I mended code for overtime, but if I wanted to go home, I’d let it fail,” remembers Ian. “The power of the operator back then meant we had complete control. I was advising people how to build better code, but I started to find that people in coding kept getting promoted over me.” So what did you do about that, I ask? “I made the decision to go into software development, I needed a degree, so I decided to go to Uni.”

"I walked away from Insight with a significant amount of money in my pocket...I walk away from CREST with the clothes I walked in with.”

The government advised him to apply for a bursary at Brunel University to study systems and information management. The gratitude Ian has for that gesture still shines through today. “It changed my life. Finally, someone was willing to invest in me and cared about my career.

“I’ve always remembered that someone gave me a chance. So that’s why I’ve always wanted to give back, always sought to give people a chance.”

Ian reflects on the people in his career who have been very supportive. That exclusive club includes his great uncle, who was an engineer; a senior manager at the MoD “who supported me and believed in me;” and the CCTA “who gave me a free hand.”

After graduation, Ian spent more years in different roles within the government. One of which saw him develop a risk analysis tool called CRAMM, which was rolled out throughout the UK government, sold both internationally and to private sector organizations. He found himself at one of those clichéd career crossroads.

The government wanted to promote Ian and move him into policy, but his desire to stay in technology resulted in him leaving with an “extremely heavy heart.” Why so heavy, I question? “I wanted to make more of a difference. I’m loyal, and I didn’t want to let them down,” remembers Ian. “The civil service was really good to me,” he says. So, with the advantage of hindsight, was leaving at that point the right decision, I ask Ian?

“It was absolutely the right decision, with the exception of missing out on an MBE,” jokes Ian, but I suspect there’s a sliver of seriousness beneath the laughter.

Ian is a real believer in lifelong learning. “Further education is important in life. That’s why I care so much about it and want to help.” It’s a quality that matches him perfectly to his role at CREST. “If I can help others, I will. I want to make a difference. We talk about diversity, but I much prefer inclusion as a word. Socioeconomic is as important as gender diversity, and physical handicap is an under-represented area for technology generally. We also have a high percentage of people who are certainly on the [neurodiversity] spectrum. They don’t fit well into traditional education, and I think maybe I was one of those?”

The Entrepreneurial Chapter 

Having jumped ship from the government, Ian Glover landed at Ernst & Young (now EY) in the early days of its cybersecurity consulting practice.

“In the private sector, you lose the power to influence,” says Ian, reflecting on how he felt somewhat stifled in terms of how he could develop that service provision. On then to the next step, partnering with two friends, soon-to-be co-founders, to develop Insight Consulting, a boutique cybersecurity services firm. By the time Ian and his pals came to sell Insight a decade after its formation, the company had 150 consultants providing services in penetration testing, identity access and management and training, recruitment and contracting.

They sold to Siemens, and Ian worked at the tech giant for five years, only three of which were stipulated by the acquisition. “I was placed on the board for EMEA for Siemens Communications, but really I was responsible for the professional services element and trying to make sure security was put into their large managed services and communication and delivery products.”

Ian regrets not celebrating the sale of Insight Consulting more. On the day he cashed the substantial, weighty cheque, he remembers how he went back to the office to work the rest of the day. “There was no structured celebration,” he laments. Still, “I walked away from Insight with a significant amount of money in my pocket.” In contrast, he grins, “I walk away from CREST with the clothes I walked in with.”

He holds neither chapter in higher regard. Instead, he philosophizes, “Selling Insight gave me the financial stability

I needed in order to take the CREST role. You have to do the former before you can do the latter,” he explains. “Walking away from Insight was a lot more emotional; I built it,” he recalls, “CREST, on the other hand, was never mine.”

With the benefit of hindsight, Ian would choose the Insight chapter as the one he’d repeat with edits. “I know a lot more now, and I’d love to do that again with clarity of vision. I’d build something I really like without getting bogged down.”

The Next Chapter

I ask Ian if he could have done any job in the world what it would have been, and his answer makes me think that he isn’t too keen on hypothetical questions. “There are millions of jobs I’d love to have done,” he says, somewhat ambiguously. So I wait, hoping to get something more specific. “I couldn’t have chosen a better career. It’s a great industry, a joy and there’s the joyous nature of the diversity of the people.”

Ultimately, Ian explains to me, “It’s all about knowing when to stop, and I think now is that time for me.” It’s a soundbite that was destined to find itself in my closing paragraph, but even as I type it, I don’t believe it. Ian may be retiring from his day job, but when it comes to giving back, fighting for a more significant cause and making a difference, stopping isn’t an option. I take my hat off to Ian for a contribution to industry that so few will equal, not to mention his contribution to the world beyond that. I can’t wait to read how his next chapter goes. But for this ‘story’, (it’s not) the end.

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