We’ve made an effort at The Pipeline to showcase veterans and members of the military community who took different paths to their cybersecurity role. Today we hear from Adam Rice, who serves as CISO for Hilton and took a unique path to get there.
As noted in our last piece, Hilton has been leading the way in veteran and military community hiring for some time. Adam is another example of Hilton’s military representation throughout its leadership structure. Adam’s career progression is unique as he balanced his professional life with the duties and commitments that came with a nearly 20-year career as a Special Forces Soldier in the North Carolina National Guard. Service in the reserve component has its benefits—along with challenges. Adam is proof that you can have a professional career while also continuing to serve the community and nation.
How did you become interested in the military?
I think by middle school I was sure I was going to join the Army right out of High School
Did your role in the military have any direct relationship to your current or previous roles?
None. I was an Army Special Forces guy. We were more in the kinetic energy side of things.
What experiences did you have while in uniform that started you on the path to where you are now?
I think my time in the military proved that If you put your mind to a challenge you can overcome anything. Time management, focusing on the tasks ahead, and not settling for anything but 100% helped me breeze through University and helped me with my career.
What did you do in the latter part of your service/while you were leaving the military that set you up for success?
I did not have any formal transition personally or through the Army. On my last day, I woke up and drove away.
Looking back—did you do anything that set you back?
Nope. I left the regular Army, went straight into University, and into the National Guard. I had the old GI bill, plus the Guard paid my tuition. I had zero debt, a graduate degree, and a career.
What are 3 challenges or experiences you’ve faced in your current role that you used your military experience to help overcome?
Hard work. Don’t shy away from rolling up your sleeves and doing the hard work to solve a problem.
Have perspective. As bad as it gets in a corporate job, combat is a lot worse.
Count your blessings. And last, keep calm during a crisis and trust your team to do their job.
What sort of education and experience would a veteran need to be part of your team?
I run the Cyber team which is a broad career field with lots of specialties. In the time before 100% on-line university degrees in “Cyber” people would make their way to a cyber team from years in a more traditional IT focus. We would recruit people who were experienced technologists. I would say if you want to get into Cyber, start with a technology field, e.g., networking, OS, applications, DevOps, and then move over. I need to have practical skills that I can put to work right away. If you are in a University program for Cyber and you want to graduate with a good job, then make sure you intern and learn those practical skills.
What would you say to employers who are considering hiring veterans? Why should they…and what should they do/not do to attract/retain vets?
Hiring vets is usually a great idea. They have a proven work ethic and deliberate leadership training. We also owe our vets a chance to compete for jobs. If you are a vet, you should get priority screening when you apply for a job.
What are some ways that veterans can find/get into roles in your specific part of the organization?
At Hilton, we have a dedicated military recruitment team that works with veteran and military spouse candidates to find the right fit for them and get their resumes in front of the right recruiters.
What would you say to employers who are considering hiring veterans? Why should they?
The question is not why should companies hire vets, it’s why wouldn’t they? It’s a no-brainer. Veterans possess essential technical and interpersonal skills, discipline, leadership, loyalty, and many other attributes —all of which improve an organization and its bottom line. A veteran’s set of values, work ethic and propensity for teamwork are great additions to any company’s workforce.
Hilton is constantly recognized for its efforts to support the military community. What have you done to help recruit/retrain/develop veterans in your part of the business?
If you’re a vet, I try to help make connections and get candidates an initial screening. At Hilton, we walk the walk and don’t just say we are a military-friendly company – we take this part of our company culture very seriously and retain our military Team Members because they feel valued and recognized for what they bring to the table.
What are some key things vets should consider when applying to cyber roles for a large company (like Hilton)? What are the advantages of joining a large company versus a small/medium tech-focused firm or startup?
With a company like Hilton, you need to show up with your A-game. We have a huge global network with a complex hotel/corporate/technology landscape. A benefit of Hilton is the value proposition of a strong cyber team is understood. It is harder to be successful if you are trying to sell the value of a cyber team to management, and a lot of companies have cyber teams because they must. Smaller companies work on smaller problems with smaller teams. The larger the company the more focused you become in a role. For a smaller company, you must be more a “jack of all trades”. I would say that it is better to do some time in a smaller company first, then move to a larger one.
What are some rules to live by/key considerations for veterans currently working in IT/Cyber?
If you get into Cyber, pick a lane and be the best at what you do. Lots of sub-fields in Cyber. Be the best at it.
You served a career in the Army National Guard. What advice would you have for individuals who are leaving active duty who are considering transitioning to the guard/reserve while starting their civilian career?
I enjoyed my time in the National Guard. I went to Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF, Afghanistan) for a year and they paid my salary. As a member of the reserves, you are protected. Know your rights, and your obligations.
A different take on that question: What would you say to employers/companies and hiring managers of guard/reserve employees? What words of advice do you have?
I would remind them that the law was clear, but they also had a moral and patriotic duty to go beyond the letter of the law and support their reservists who do the hard work for the benefit of the country. I would point them to resources that provide some guidance on the rules and obligations of employers and reservists.
Note: If you are an employer, a National Guard or reserve member, or want to learn more about supporting those who serve their community, state, and nation part time, visit the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). They have resources to help employers support their Guard and reserve employees. ESGR also has a recognition program for employers, culminating in the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, which Hilton was awarded in 2020.