Michael “Mike” Crandall Crandall is the founder and current CEO of Digital Beachhead, a Veterans Administration certified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) that provides Cyber Security, Information Technology and Professional Services located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is an internationally recognized cyber expert, speaker, consultant, and business owner.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in Upstate New York on the border of Vermont, very much dairy farm country so I was a typical country kid. My childhood was unspectacular and very “normal” for our area as my mother worked from home managing the house and our family business. My father was the “worker” of the family business who was out delivering home heating fuel to the community. I was raised to work hard and appreciate others who were less fortunate. One experience that shaped my life and had a huge impact while I served in the military was the time my father locked me inside our barn with the lights off. I was goofing off, the norm for me at that age (5 or 6 years old), so he walked to the door, shut off the lights, locked and closed the door. I cried, I screamed because I panicked. My father simply said, you know this barn, you know where you are, so breathe and find your way out. In time, that is exactly what I did. From that moment on when things around me seem to be spinning or out of control the world slows down and I just work my way out of it.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
I really wished I would have learned to not take life so seriously. While we all have very important things going on that seem to stress us I remind myself that I am NOT being shot at nor am I in a combat zone. It is all about perspective in life.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
I work in Cyber Risk Management and many professionals speak to “security” and making sure you have a secure Information Technology infrastructure. While working TOWARDS security is what everyone should be doing it is more about managing your risk. When Cybercriminals are breaking into U.S. Government agencies, large multination corporations who have a very large cybersecurity budget it is unwise to think we can take actions to stop or secure these things from happening. Instead, we need to understand our risk and take reasonable actions to mitigate our threats. I often say a small coffee shop does not need to invest in a multi-thousand dollar firewall. They need to train their employees well, change passwords frequently, and other such actions to protect themselves. Again, life is about perspectives.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
I have had a few dark periods over my lifetime. I think most people have whether they are conscious of them or not. Trauma affects everyone in its own way. When I returned from my last deployment in Afghanistan it was very difficult to return to “normal” life. I drove too fast, got angry too quickly, and was jumpy at noises, people, and anything out of the “ordinary”. I still have not come out of it all. I still jump at noises and crowds make me anxious. It took time but what I learned was that it is ok to ask for help. We all need a “battle buddy” even if the battle is in your own mind. By seeking help I was able to overcome some of the darkness and know to whom to turn when it creeps back in.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
I think being raised to work hard and not expect things to magically happen has been a big factor in my success to date. Throughout my military career I followed the “Scotty Principle” which I adapted from Star Trek; always under promise and overdeliver. Lastly, treat your people well. This is not just about compensation but expectations. Raise your expectations and watch your team rise to the occasion. This only works if you are also willing to do the same things you task your team with. It is all about leadership, and it is my goal to lead my team(s) well.
What is your morning routine?
I wake up at 7:30 am and get a coffee in me while I catch up on the news. I start working about 8 am and continue until 6 pm most days. Some days I work beyond those hours if I have meetings or overseas calls. After I start work I try to get breakfast in by 10 am to fuel up beside the now third mug of coffee.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
The habit I try to achieve the most is finding that work/life balance. I am fortunate enough to manage a company I own. This gives me the freedom to arrange a schedule that may allow for an afternoon out with family. This has helped me more than just mentally, but it has shown me that I can make the time. In fact, it has improved my overall time management processes. Knowing I have a “treat” midweek drives me to perform better. I really have found ways to work smarter, not harder.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
The most important strategy I have learned is to book my time. If I leave “open time” to complete this project or that task then it will be taken up by other things that come up and those items won’t get done. We all have “fires” to put out that come up unexpectedly but that means you have to shift something in your schedule versus just not getting to it had hoped you have more “open” time later on. It must be a focused effort to manage your time.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
I have recently read a lot of military non-fiction books with Red Platoon by Clinton Romesha having influenced me for a variety of reasons. For one, I am an Afghanistan veteran with experiences only those who served with me could comprehend completely. Second, Clint and his team were based at Fort Carson that resides within my current city of Colorado Springs so that brought it closer to home. Finally, reading about their deployment journey brought me back to that time in my life when anything was possible, yet nothing was certain day to day. The book reminded me to appreciate once again being alive and not taking life for granted. I look now to each day as a success because I am alive, breathing air, and loved by those around me.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
My favorite quote I learned while training in England when I was stationed there. It is simply: “Who Dares Wins”. I try to live by this every day. We cannot be afraid of taking chances in life because we never know how long we have.