Q&A with Sarah McAleavey, Director of Cyber Defence at ESO


Latest jobs

  • Sarah McAleavey is Director of Cyber Defence at ESO Belfast and launched the first HashiCorp User Group (HUG) at ESO Belfast on 23rd February to bring together Northern Ireland’s tech talent.

    What’s your background?

    My career in Tech can be summarised by helping people design secure platforms and systems to protect data and make sure it's available when needed. To achieve this, I’ve used a lot of different tools to build systems that can be updated quickly and securely. A key part of my day here at ESO is helping people understand how to safely build and use technology, by creating strategies, plans and direction to put security at the centre of the engineering process, making it intrinsic to how we build our systems and think about our digital environments.

    Coming from a background in data management, clinical trials and childrens’ nursing I’m so fortunate to be working for a company that’s sole purpose is to improve the outcomes of people needing front line emergency care. Working here means I’m doing my part, helping to save lives but from behind my keyboard. To be able to use my engineering experience to really make a positive difference to people at their most vulnerable time is the biggest motivation for me. ESO creates software that’s in the hands of Fire Fighters, Paramedics, Hospitals and First Responders, transforming community health and safety through data insights. Looking after people’s data, when they are often experiencing some of the most difficult situations in their lives is a huge responsibility, and one we don’t take lightly here at ESO.

    Tell us more about working in Cyber Defence?

    My soap-box rants (of which there are many) are usually around the principles of ‘Security-First’, which means that security should be the top priority when designing, developing, and deploying any system or application. This means that security measures should be implemented from the very start and that security should be taken into consideration throughout the entire process, not as an afterthought when you’re ready to go live to your production environment.

    For me, this is about building systems with the mindset that you’ve already been breached – that there is already a dormant attacker inside your systems that requires you to trust nothing. This zero-trust implementation is a security model that assumes that all users, devices, and services are untrusted and must be verified before granting access. To trust anything requires authentication as well as authorisation, and requires continuous monitoring and verification of user activity to identify unexpected behaviours, like attempts to access services or systems outside of usual remit.

    Currently, I’m working on launching a Northern Ireland HashiCorp meet-up to take place at ESO Belfast – HashiCorp is a global community that focus on development, operations and security challenges, their tools are designed to implement both Zero-Trust and Security-First principles.

    My passion for these tools and solutions is still strong coming to ESO - where we use Terraform to implement immutable builds – so it seemed like a great opportunity to bring together the Northern Irish technologists and launch the first HashiCorp User Group (HUG) here at the ESO office, taking place on Thursday 23rd February!

    The HUG is a community of users who share their experiences and best practices of using all the HashiCorp product and is a platform for users to ask questions, share tips, and collaborate on projects and solutions as well as getting certified on Terraform, Vault or Consul within Study Groups and with Discounts on Certs. And we do it all with pizza, beer, the chance to make new friends, and with healthy amounts of swag to entice new members! We’re lucky to have Hashicorp Architects and Engineers as guest speakers as well as some of our own Northern Irish Tech talent to share their stories, challenges and demo solutions.

    What do you enjoy most about working for ESO?

    Coming to ESO has opened so many doors for me to become more involved in the Cybersecurity industry here in Northern Ireland and to amalgamate a lot of my own passions around emergency care and digital transformation. I love sharing my experiences of building ideas, designing solutions, and architecting operations across many of the different Fortune 500 Companies, and I equally love hearing about other people’s approaches, designs and challenges.

    This is how we expand our learning, as individuals and as an industry, so I hope bringing together people who are using Terraform and Vault, Consul or Nomad will play a key role in our continued learning and create new opportunities for collaboration. After working on global technology accounts, I’m even more proud to be part of an industry here that truely is working on the bleeding edge of digital and cloud.

    Northern Ireland is a mature and sophisticated contender in the global tech market and the skilled technologists based here are the lifeblood for continued growth in our industry. Threats and challenges to our cybersecurity are continually on the rise, so understanding how to protect and prevent threats to our business economy is everyone’s business. I hope the HUG serves a role in strengthening our defences whilst having fun learning from each other.

Share this story