San Diego Business JournalSan Diego Business Journal
Published Online October 3, 2014, in Print October 6, 2014

Another Sort of Training: The experience of being in the military has all sorts of parallels in the commercial world. Ask Mike Walls, a Norfolk, Va., resident who spends part of his time in San Diego with locally based EdgeWave. The business provides cyber security to small and midsized businesses, including those in the education, health careand commercial sectors.

Walls was a pilot who worked in cyber defense late in his 28-year U.S. Navy career. During his last assignment, he found himself actually battling intruders in cyberspace. It was an intense experience, and a new one. Walls said the Navy was the first service to conduct a named operation in cyberspace — something along the lines of Operation Iraqi Freedom in the kinetic world. He declined to give other details, including the identity of the other players. “It’s not just going after organized criminals or a couple hackers,” he said. “It was a significant threat.”

Walls, who retired with the rank of captain, concluded his Navy career with a job in 10th Fleet, an organization that has a unique spot in Navy lore. The Navy set up 10th Fleet in World War II to deal with anti-submarine warfare, then deactivated it at war’s end. It was reactivated in 2010 to deal with cyber warfare.

When he was ready to go into civilian life, Walls said his wife made a request; she preferred that he not settle into a career as an airline pilot. That was fine, Walls recalled, because he had grown to like the cyber security aspect of his last command. He had even become passionate about it.

During his transition out of the military, Walls checked in with Dave Maquera, who had been his stateroom mate and squadron mate on the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy during the days when both flew A-6E Intruder aircraft. Maquera had gone on to become CEO of a San Diego company called EdgeWave.

They spoke of fighting and maneuvering on the network, and Walls recalled Maquera finally saying, “Hey, why don’t you come aboard?”

Walls did that in June. His title is now managing director of cyber security operations and analysis.

These days, Walls employs many lessons from his military training, including staying ahead of the enemy in the decision-making process. The concept of the OODA loop — the process of observe, orient, decide and act — is key. OODA was originally an Air Force concept, but it has since made its way into the civilian world, notably into business school curriculum. It’s a good concept to use in cyberspace, Walls said; “Your decision-making can’t be reckless, but it has to be deliberate and timely.”

Though it serves commercial customers, EdgeWave touts “military grade” products in its current advertising. The business, formerly known as St. Bernard Software, is taking on more Navy retirees, recently hiring Tom Chapman, a former intelligence officer. It’s probably not EdgeWave’s last military hire.