12 October 2016
The Country Manager of Symantec was in Mauritius recently for the launch of BIRGER. Cyber Defence Centre in partnership with Symantec. He speaks about his commitment to the protection of internet users as well as philanthropic activities.
Egyptian by birth, Canadian by nationality and currently working for an American company while being based in Dubai… Fady Iskander, Country Manager, Accelerated Growth Countries, East Europe, Levant and Africa at Symantec, is quite the epitome of a global citizen. “Basically, I am confused who I am”, he says with a heart-warming laugh that immediately sets one at ease.
Globe-trotting has always been part of Fady Iskander’s life: he spent his childhood between Sudan and Libya, where his father was working, then pursued his tertiary education in Cairo, Egypt and in Seattle, United States. In those two countries, he specialised in computer science and engineering as well as in business administration.
FadyIskander was working very closely with the Microsoft headquarters during his last year at the University of Washington in Seattle, which led him to fall in love with computers and software engineering. He always knew, however, that he wanted to get into the information techno-logy (IT) sphere; ever since his father bought his first computer in 1987. It was an invention at the time, he recalls. The machine had a 128-kilobyte capacity and he used to download applications from cassettes. “I wrote my first programme and stored it on a cassette using basic language. Computers fascinated me from that moment on. When I travelled to the US, I was introduced to the Internet, which was still rather new. It was mainly used for e-mailing purposes while a few web pages were being developed. I was enthralled by the fact that I could communicate with my family by e-mail and get a response within half an hour. That was miraculous for me”, Fady Iskander recounts.
He thus pursued his career with conviction in the IT industry and his first task was to install a computer network for a large oil company – which turned out to be very successful. Subsequently, Fady Iskander migrated to Ca-nada, where he took up different jobs in the software field before moving to Dubai in order to open a branch for an American software company.
Dubai was a career turning point for Fady Iskander, marking the transition from the technical to the sales field. This will lead him to join Symantec as a Channel Ma-nager in 2008, after stints within a few other companies. At Symantec, he gradually climbed up the corporate ladder and became Channel Director before reaching his current position.
One of the most interesting aspects of his work at Symantec is that it gives him the opportunity to help families and organisations like conglomerates or banks and even governments navigate the Internet confidently and benefit from it without being harmed. Humans have been living in a physical world for the past 8,000 years and have acquired the capacity to protect themselves using doors, walls and armies, FadyIskander explains. However, over the past 20 years or so, a virtual world has been developed and we are practically living in it, but in many cases, do not have the adequate defences to perform our different tasks safely.
“Symantec’s job is to become your bodyguard while you are touring this virtual world, to protect you and bring you back safely. This, for me, is amazing because it allows Internet users to move very freely,” he highlights.
To give an example of the reach and power of the Internet, FadyIskander shares an anecdote regarding his recent visit to Mauritius for the launch of the Symantec Cyber Defence Centre with partner BIRGER. Prior to his trip, he was questioned by his Internet-savvy son as to where is Mauritius located, to which he answered that it is an island in the Indian Ocean. To test his son’s general knowledge, Fady Iskander then asked him what object or which person he would bring with him should he get stranded on a desert island. “I was hoping he would choose me but he didn’t and so I thought he would choose a knife or another handy object,” says the Country Manager with humour. Yet, the lad’s answer was an iPad, since the numerous applications it contains can teach him how to locate a water source, how to fish or build a shelter, which, to Fady Iskander, illustrates perfectly the importance of the Internet nowadays.
Through that incident, he also realised that his son is a “digital native” while he is a “digital immigrant”, given the younger generation’s degree of familiarity with technology. “There is an app for every single thing and a hack for every single app as well. Just like there are thieves for banks, there are people in the digital world who exploit Internet users’ inexperience. This, for me, is of great interest and I would like to be the cop of the Internet. I like to play this role,” he admits passionately.
As regards the less rosy side of his job, Fady Iskander affirms that he has to be available as soon as Internet users are exposed to a serious threat. As a matter of fact, he always gets called when there is a catastrophe, sometimes at three in the morning.
“My job is to help the person facing a disaster keep cool and navigate through it. I don’t always have good news,” he adds.
To illustrate what such disasters might be, the Country Manager goes back to two cases where it was found that viruses had not only infiltrated data but were also controlling the physical world. In 2010, for instance, Fady Iskander relates, a malware which had been roaming the world during a few years was discovered in Iran. The virus had the ability to take over the control of electricity systems and water pumps as well as nuclear reactors while showing that everything was working perfectly. Another example of a virus attack would be the blackout caused at Christmas time in Ukraine last year, plunging 250,000 persons in darkness.
When he is not being the “cop of the digital world”, Fady Iskander keeps busy with his family and various uplifting activities. “I am happily married to the love of my life and we have two boys and one daughter, who is the eldest,” he shares.
Passion is at the centre of his hobbies and philanthropic activities as well. Indeed, aside from work, Fady Iskander is a scuba diving instructor with PADI – the Professional Association for Diving Instructors. “After my first dive in the Red Sea in Egypt, I just knew I wanted to be like my instructor. The job and the ability to take people in an environment that’s not theirs and bring them back safely – which is very similar to what I do in my work – appealed to me”, he states. The man is now an advanced instructor and has taught around 80 persons so far. His 11-year old daughter has been certified last Christmas which means he now has a diving buddy. “This is exciting,” says Fady Iskander.
He also enjoys underwater photography and is active in marriage counselling along with his wife. “The face you put at home after being nice to everyone else at work is often your ugliest one, while it should be the other way round, since this is about your life partner. And so we strive to help couples learn to be more compatible,” he explains.
Once a year, Fady Iskander takes a week away with his wife and children to orphanages around the world for volunteer work. According to him, it is essential that his daughter and sons grow up while being aware that the world is not just the modern city they live in and learn the importance of giving back. We can only hope that the good continues to be spread around the world!
Mots Clés :SymantecFrance-MauricetechnologyFady IskanderCountry Manager