I’m Mark Puckett, CEO of Raxis. By now, you’ve met all but the newest members of our team, so it’s time I step up and tell you more about how this company came to be. Before I do, however, you should know that the secret to Raxis’ success is the incredible individuals you’ve met up to this point. I’ve never worked directly or indirectly with a finer group of people anywhere. I’m fortunate to call them colleagues and friends. If you’d like to be a part of our team – and you have what it takes – keep an eye on our careers page. Maybe you can be part of our exciting future.
Jim: Mark, it’s a small percentage of people who have the courage to start a business – and then only a relative handful that enjoy the success Raxis has had over the past decade. How did you decide that launching a business was the right move?
Mark: Initially, I chose a different path by working for large corporations like GE and Home Depot, as school always taught us that was the best path for success. Yet, I always had an interest in starting a business. My mother is an entrepreneur at heart. My parents owned a jewelry store when I was growing up. Later, my mom started a translating and interpreting agency that provided language services for the legal industry. It took some time for me to realize that I had that same inclination toward entrepreneurship.
Jim: Was Raxis your first attempt at starting a business?
Mark: Yes and no. I’ve owned the raxis.com domain name since 1999, and it started out as a website hosting business. Then it morphed into a rental property management company, an SEO business, back to web hosting, and then to secure software development. But after 18 years in corporate America and toying with side-businesses, I decided it was time to take a shot at making Raxis my full-time endeavor, only this time as a penetration testing company.
Jim: With apologies to Tolkien, one doesn’t simply walk into pentesting. You must have had a strong background in security to even consider the field.
Mark: That’s true. Penetration testing became an interest of mine years ago when my career pushed me in that direction. I moved from a network and application security defense role to managing Home Depot’s internal Red Team. After a couple of years in that role, I found I really enjoyed penetration testing and realized it had a lot of business potential as a relatively young concept at the time.
Jim: Seems like a scary prospect to jump in with both feet.
Mark: Knowing that you can’t really tell two stories well, I knew I had to leave Home Depot and take a chance at running Raxis full time. For a true entrepreneur, the scariest proposition is not pursuing an idea. So, I left Home Depot in 2011 to chase my dream. That dream, known to many as Raxis, has been profitable since inception and growing steadily to date.
Jim: A very common theme among most of the Raxis team is this intense curiosity that seems to be present from an early age. Was that true of you as well?
Mark: As a matter of fact, yes. And I think that deep curiosity is a character trait you’ll find among all the best ethical hackers. We know there’s a way in, and we will find it. And I can remember that same feeling of determination from early in life.
Jim: How did that emerge?
Mark: First, it was an interest in electronics that started when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I really enjoyed taking apart electronic toys and appliances to see how they worked. I’d salvage all sorts of parts like motors, lights, LEDs (only in red at the time), and switches. I came up with all sorts of little projects just for fun, like fasten parts to a cardboard box to make a “switchboard.” Mine was only able to turn on and off lights and run a DC-powered fan that used a popsicle stick for a prop, but I really thought it was fun to build. My parents correctly realized they were on to something. So, they got me a 50-in-1 electronics kit from Radio Shack that I absolutely loved.
Jim: Was that your ‘gateway’ tech?
Mark: Yes, apparently so. Because, as soon as computer technology became affordable to consumers, I had to have one. My first computer at age 8 was a Tandy Color Computer 2, also from Radio Shack. I taught myself how to write BASIC programs from typing in code I got from a computer magazine subscription. That began a life-long relationship with technology. After the Tandy CoCo 2, I became an avid IBM PC clone fan, then to Linux, Windows, and now MacOS X.
Jim: Another theme that recurs in these interviews is the close-knit relationship among the team members. Raxis’ COO Bonnie Smyre talked about your friendship that began in high school and continued through the years. And (VP of business development) Brad Herring is a longtime friend as well, right?
Mark: That’s right. I’ve been friends with Bonnie since high school, and we stayed in touch until I convinced her to join Raxis several years ago. I’ve known Brad even longer. My family moved from Carrollton, Georgia to Marietta when I was 10 years old. I met Brad in middle school, and he was my first new friend in a new town. He also had a computer and really enjoyed technology, so we had a lot in common. There were times our lives led us in different directions, but we always were able to keep in touch. We were catching up at a lunch, just as we did every now and then, when I mentioned to Brad that I needed some help with generating more business for Raxis. Brad jumped in with both feet and was able to build a first-rate sales program that has exceeded expectation since inception
Jim: Speaking of Brad, he told me that, in addition to your love of technology and electronics, you also have a longtime passion for cars. Is that what keeps you busy when you’re not focused on Raxis?
Mark: Aside from spending as much time as I can with my lovely wife and three beautiful daughters, I seem to be a jack of all trades and master of none when it comes to hobbies. My favorite hobby is pretending to be a race driver at Road Atlanta. I also enjoy boating (but not so much fishing), cycling, photography, videography, astronomy, and home theater.
Jim: One of the Raxis YouTube videos discusses teamwork as the company’s “secret sauce.” What’s your take on that statement?
Mark: Truer words were never spoken. Raxis hires people, not positions. We look for folks who care about making a difference more than just making a paycheck. It takes longer to find the right team members, but it’s so worth it when you see how well all our various skillsets complement each other. And, even though we’ve got absurdly talented people here, we don’t have giant egos to deal with. As a result, we’re continuously learning from each other and our customers get the best service possible.
I don’t take credit for their great work, but I’m certainly proud to be a catalyst for bringing them all onto one team.