Career Notes 4.3.22
Ep 94 | 4.3.22

Michael DeBolt: From acting to cyber. [Intelligence]


Michael DeBolt: Hello, my name is Michael DeBolt. I'm the Chief Intelligence Officer at Intel 471.

Michael DeBolt: It's funny and I'm not sure how many people know this about me, but, um, they're going to know now, I grew up wanting to be an actor actually. I went to a creative arts academy in elementary school, and I just had this idea of performing on stage, I also had other dreams of becoming a baseball player and stuff like that, but cyber and technology was never really part of my mindset back then, but that's kind of how I grew up.

Michael DeBolt: I actually had a minor scholarship to go to Western Michigan university to do theater and then 9/11 hit and I quickly realized that there was an opportunity for me to serve my country in a very meaningful way and so I made the very natural shift from wanting to become an actor to now going into the Marine Corps as an infantryman, within a very short period of time. So, yeah, that was pretty much the end of my acting sort of ambition and career.

Michael DeBolt: For whatever reason, looking back on it, I feel like my life purpose has really been all about kind of this relentless pursuit of justice. I've taken some of those things that I've learned in those qualities and been able to translate them into what I do now. First thing I did was go into the Marine Corps right after high school, after that fast forward two years, I was a direct care counselor for children and then, you know, really from there, it's just law enforcement, counter-intelligence, my path has been all about the risks and trying to make right the wrongs of the world.

Michael DeBolt: Fast forward to when I got out of the Marine Corps, I just remember one day I was driving down the highway and I saw this billboard for Ferris State University and they were advertising for a brand new degree called information security and intelligence. It was a perfect combination of technology, security, and law enforcement. I ended up getting an emphasis on digital forensics and then I did some volunteer work at the local county Sheriff's office and then I ended up getting a position as a special agent with the Naval criminal investigative service.

Michael DeBolt: I spent eight years as a special agent with NCIS working predominantly cyber espionage and cyber crime cases. I was the first one to stand up an undercover operation targeting cyber criminals, who were targeting the, department of defense. So a lot of effort and emphasis had been focused on, tracking espionage actors, how are they stealing our secrets, the Russians and the Chinese. I realized there was a gap and no one was really looking at the cyber crime threat against the department of defense and then from there, went to Interpol in Singapore and, that's where I was the US representative there and help to build out and lead their cyber fusion center, and then ended up coming to Intel 471, which is where I'm at right now.

Michael DeBolt: So my philosophy as a leader is actually very simple, it's all about being a servant leader for me. I'm far from perfect in my pursuit of this, it's really centered around genuine humility. Maybe I don't know the answer or I don't have the best solution and that can be hard sometimes because you want to project this image of kind of having it all together, right? You, you want to instill trust in your team. When your people see that you're willing to admit you don't have it all together as a leader and that you're genuinely relying on them as individuals and also as a collective team, that they're more willing to step out of their comfort zone.

Michael DeBolt: I feel like whenever I've fallen in the past, and made some serious mistakes is when I've tried to take it all on myself, and tried to kind of unilaterally make a decision and of course being an executive, you have to make some tough decisions, but that doesn't mean that you don't ask for input from your team and take a pause, out of your busy schedule, just say, hang on a minute, there's some additional perspective here that I need in order to make this pretty big and tough decision. Again, realizing that I'm sure it's going to be ultimately up to me to make the decision and I'll take that one but I want to make sure that the decision is, if we can reach consensus great, but if not, at least everyone's input has been genuinely heard and acknowledge.

Michael DeBolt: I want to wake up every single day and do compelling work, and have as much scale and impact as I possibly can with my two hands, and I have to realize that, there's only so much that I can personally do. So, if people can look back on me and say, you know, he was, he was the one that enabled me or equipped to me to, make an impact, on my personal work and then that cascaded down to my team's work and then it's just this multiplication of a number of different people acting with their own skills and their own abilities to make a change in this world. Then if I can be that force multiplier and help with that, that would be a great result for me.