Culture of Excellence
Praetorian’s culture is one of delivering excellence to others, whether securing a client or securing the family–each other and at home. This is only possible when each employee takes responsibility for their role in maximizing the utility of that delivery. Each of our company core values boils down to the “what” and “how”. We strive to execute impactful technical innovations that provide the best possible security advisory work for our clients. We do this with transparency and modesty, and share knowledge, attribution on success, and responsibility in failures. Engineers focus on taking care of our customers, both on external engagements and internal capabilities; managers focus internally, taking care of the engineers; leadership steers the craft.
We strive to achieve a careful equilibrium here to maintain a positive experience for our clients while not burning out any of the components. As you may have surmised, maintaining this equilibrium is complicated due to the complexities of performing security advisory work for dozens of customers, each with different goals, product technologies, and bespoke computing infrastructure. Once the statement of work is inked, Praetorian service line managers must heed clients’ requirements with a finite supply of security engineers, each having their talents, passions, and personal lives.
Progressive Parental Leave
Despite the constant push and pull of running a security consulting business, Praetorian has found a way to provide one of the most progressive parental leave policies that I have observed in 20+ years in both the public and private sectors. In terms of length and especially for fathers, Praetorian’s parental leave policy puts it among the top companies in the United States, many of which are orders of magnitude larger.
A Global Comparison
The United States is one of only several industrialized countries which does not ensure paid parental leave nationwide (KKF, 2021). As of 2020, federal employees receive paid parental leave (12 weeks) and a handful of states have established laws for mandatory paid family and medical leave. As a result, non-federal agencies and private companies are free to determine how much leave they offer to parents after the birth of a child. According to a 2019 KKF survey, only 25% of such firms and agencies offer some form of paid parental leave.
This is a starkly different approach than many other countries around the world, where paid parental leave is the norm. According to an examination of World Policy Analysis Centre Adult Labour Database data from 186 countries in 2013, 96% mandate paid maternity leave and 44% provide pay for fathers after the birth of a child.
My Anecdotal Comparison
As a federal civil servant employed before the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act of 2020, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) stipulated I was allowed to take 12 weeks of personal paid leave after the births of my three older children. Although FMLA offered job protection, in practice the personal cost disincentivized me from taking an extended leave of absence.
Praetorian took the opportunity cost decision away from me. They offered a generous paid paternity leave, no questions asked: “take care of your family, we’ll take care of the rest; see you when you get back.”
Praetorian is able to absorb the cost of an engineer going on a “life sabbatical” for an extended period of time, where they can focus on securing the family rather than a client. This is exceptional since the company still operates much like a startup and advisory services is the lifeblood of the company’s mission. I think it is able to offer this generous policy due to a combination of three particular corporate priorities.
Culture of Radical Focus
Praetorian’s laser-focus on performance is what originally attracted me to the company. I longed for a community that cared about the mission, one in which individual members sacrifice for the greater good. Every day our clients trust us with their crown jewels and in turn we get to help improve aspects of their security posture, which in turn protects their stakeholders from the barrage of threats that exist out in the world today. This is no easy task, but we have the proven track record and experience required to operate at the highest level in the security advisory space.
We take to heart lessons learned and adapt and document processes to improve both customer satisfaction and internal efficiency. Our IT department supports rapid adoption of powerful, new, and novel remote collaboration tools. This has yielded better interoperability and continuity of service line endeavors, including the drawdown of a senior engineer like myself for extended leave! It has also paved the way for technical innovation during global information security events.
Agile Security Engineering Cadre
Praetorian hires talented technical folks who bring a wide array of strengths and backgrounds to bear on information security’s toughest problems. It then encourages cross-pollination across product and corporate security domains in order to level-up engineers according to existing niches as well as other interests and passions. By the time an engineer reaches the more senior ranks, they are ready to make critical contributions to a wide variety of security assessments. They could be working on aspects of a chip-to-cloud IoT ecosystem for a couple of weeks, then transition seamlessly to a corporate security penetration test of some shade from red to blue. This allows Praetorian to flexibly mix and match talent to meet client security goals.
Capable, Empathetic Management
Practice managers at Praetorian wear many hats. Two of the most critical of these are managing the security engineers and serving as the last line of quality control for client deliverables. Our PMs keep on top of the technical execution of several client engagements at a time and stand ready to jump in to provide nuanced communications and technical lift when the occasional need arises. Day to day, they generally clear the tracks to pave the way for folks like me to do their job. Above all, PMs receive the endorsement of Praetorian leadership to advocate for their engineers in all areas from professional development to encouraging work/life balance and time off. They make the hard decisions so that engineers don’t have to, which is something I know I am not alone in appreciating.
The ability to focus on family along with my wife after the birth of our son was meaningful in ways I find hard to convey accurately. The first few months of a newborn’s life are so critical to their development yet fraught with changes for their parents. I was able to be present for both the beautiful and the challenging portions of that period: the restless nights and batteries of in-patient diagnostic tests, as well as the father/son bonding time and first smiles.
My paternity leave also has enabled me to be present for my older boys in a way few other professions would during full-time employment. It provided me the additional time to support my school-age boys to close the education gap that arose due to remote learning during the pandemic. The time also gave extra space to process and address a nascent developmental disorder manifesting recently with my oldest.
Parenting is hard and there were definitely times when I missed the Praetorian team and hacking on security engagements. However, simply put, this opportunity afforded me the chance to best deliver excellence as a Dad and husband in an increased capacity for at least a little while.
Praetorian prides itself on being a “Family First” organization. I can attest to the fact that these are not mere words, but a fundamental belief the company reinforces in deed. They do everything they can to facilitate this benefit so staff truly can focus on securing the family. Recent experience has served to remind me how important and necessary it is for family members to sacrifice and care for each other. I will be forever grateful for how my Praetorian family has taken care of mine these past months. What a special place to work.