Meet the Team: Bonnie Smyre, Chief Operating Officer

As Raxis’ chief operating officer, I’ve been busy prodding coworkers to do these meet-the-team interviews. (Looking at you, Brad, Brian, and Mark). Now, it’s my turn for a conversation with our marketing specialist, and the result is the interview below. I’m more accustomed to conducting interviews than giving them, so, if you’re a qualified penetration tester, check out our YouTube channel and our careers page. If Raxis is the type of company you’d like to work with, who knows – maybe I’ll get a chance to interview you.

Jim: First of all, condolences for your Tarheels’ recent loss to my Seminoles in football.

Bonnie: That’s all right. I’m a baseball fan, so North Carolina will get its redemption in the spring – if not before.

Jim: Really? I wouldn’t picture you as a baseball person. How did become a fan?

Bonnie: That started while I was at UNC. I was working as a web and database developer for many years. Baseball just seemed to be an athletic extension of that same mindset. As a game, it fit in with the details, patience, and long-game required to code a complex application from start to finish… and end up with a result that faculty, staff, and students were all happy with.

Bonnie cheering on her alma mater.

Jim: I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone make that connection before. Is that what attracted you to a career in IT in the first place?

Bonnie: I was a shy bookworm when I was younger. IT was a field I thought would allow me to work independently and not require me to interact as much with other people. However, as I grew in my profession, I realized that I needed to get past that shyness if I wanted to really make a difference.

Jim: Did that happen naturally, or did you have to work at it?

Bonnie: Oh, I worked on it. I moved on to a development job at PBS North Carolina (UNCTV while I was there). During our pledge drives, I was usually backstage working on a computer, but occasionally I would be on the phones and on live television. There are people who still tell me they remember seeing me on air.

Jim: Did that make you more comfortable being in front of people?

Bonnie: That started me on the path, I think. But the real breakthrough was when I went completely outside my comfort zone and took improv classes for a few years. I was petrified at first, but I met some great people who gave me the courage to get over my fear.

Jim: I think most people would find that terrifying – to be on stage, all eyes on you, and the pressure to be funny.

Bonnie: Improv isn’t like stand-up comedy. The whole point is that you are not alone. The team has your back, and you have theirs. It gives you a confidence to just run with what pops into your head & see if it’s funny.

Jim: Okay, so you’re a veteran IT pro and you’ve got all this improv experience. How did you find your way to Raxis and bring those skills together?

Bonnie: Our CEO, Mark Puckett, & I were good friends in high school, and I met his wife when her mom and dad were “band parents” for the marching band. (I played the flute.) In 2014, I moved back to the Atlanta area to be closer to my family and began working as a penetration tester at Raxis. When my first PSE (physical security evaluation) job came up, I found that my improv experience helped me think on my feet.

Jim: So, improv helped you convince people you were someone else and your IT background allowed you to capitalize on that?  

Bonnie pretending to be an elderly woman on stage (l) and for a real-life PSE (r)

Bonnie: Yep. It’s a bit scary how often people believed me, but the good news is, it was all for educational purposes. Once they see how easy it is for someone to slip past their security, it helps them better understand what they need to do to protect themselves and their companies.

Jim: Unlike other companies, most of Raxis’ best work has to stay confidential for obvious reasons. In the absence of outside validation, what makes the work fulfilling to you?

Bonnie: As I’ve grown in this job from pen tester, to project manager, to leading operations, I’ve found that I’m no longer in a shy IT position. Just like my improv team made me feel safe to try new things, the team here at Raxis makes things fun every day. It honestly doesn’t feel like a job. I get to work with great people and do what I love each day.

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Bonnie Smyre
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Penetration Testing as a Service doesn’t have to be a dressed up vulnerability scan. Raxis PTaaS delivers a solid pentest done right and when you need it.

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