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By Cam Sivesind
Thu | Apr 27, 2023 | 2:08 PM PDT

In the SecureWorld Spotlight Series, we learn about the speakers and Advisory Council members that make our events a success. In Q&A format, they share about their professional journeys, unique experiences, and hopes for the future of cybersecurity—along with some personal anecdotes.

Eric_BottsEric C. Botts is the Director of Global Cybersecurity at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, TX. His background includes 31 years in the U.S. State Department doing time as a Foreign Service Officer, Assistant Director of a Passport Agency, and an Information Systems Security Officer.

According to Eric, he grew into the cybersecurity role, and the more he learned, the more he found it compelling and critical to everything else in our highly technological society. "Think of the digital ecosystem as the central nervous system of civilization. Nothing moves without it," Botts said.

Get to know Eric Botts

Q: Why did you decide to pursue cybersecurity as a career path?
A: It seemed incredibly interesting and was a forward-looking career path. It opened up a world of exploration and discovery that would always provide new ways of looking at things.

Q: How would you describe your feelings about cybersecurity in one word?
A: Vital

Q: What has been your most memorable moment thus far working in cybersecurity?
A: Working with a diverse team of professionals both inside and outside of government to manage a nation-state attack against a critical government system.

Q: If you had to choose, what's the one cybersecurity practice people can adopt that would have the greatest impact?
A: Backup everything!

Q: What is an industrywide change you would like to see happen in the future?
A: More emphasis on the merger of technical expertise and policy governance within an overarching ethical framework dedicated to the promotion of human agency and human flourishing. This is the focus of the program we have at St. Thomas.

Q: If you could pass or change one regulation/law in cybersecurity and data protection, what would it be and why?
A: We need to expand the definition and application of likeness rights to everyone who has digital images and information posted online—our digital dossier. That IP ownership must remain with individuals and not be "expropriated" by service providers and/or platforms. They can't have it both ways with Section 230 protection from liability and being able to own and sell user information. The business model of coerced acceptance of SLAs or terms of service granting "free" access in exchange for surrendering an individual's rights to his or her intellectual property of the most foundational information is deeply flawed and must be corrected.

Q: When you tell people what you do for a living, what do you say?
A: I tell them that I'm a teacher and a student at the same time. It's great work.

Q: What encouraged you to join your current organization (employer)?
A: Great people, great mission, great opportunity all in one package. How could I not?

Q: What do you wish more people knew about your organization?
A: The University of St. Thomas cares. We put the growth and welfare of our students above everything.

Q: What are you most looking forward to at your regional SecureWorld conference this year?
A: After the Covid hiatus, it will be great to have face-to-face interaction and exchange of ideas with such a talented group of people. The cybersecurity community is outstanding!

Q: In honor of our 2023 conference theme, CyberSonic: Security & Sound Remix, what is your all-time favorite song?
A: "All Along the Watchtower" by Jimi Hendrix

To connect with Eric Botts and other cybersecurity leaders from the greater Houston area, attend the 13th annual SecureWorld Houston conference on May 18, 2023. Eric will be participating in a panel discussion, "What Academia Is Doing to Prepare Next-Gen Cybersecurity Professionals." See the conference agenda and register here.

Continue to follow our Spotlight Series for more highlights from industry experts.