Emmanuel at his desk here at GFI

Emmanuel Carabott, Security Research Manager at GFI and a writer on this blog, celebrates his 15th anniversary with the company this month. Angelica Micallef Trigona interviews him to learn more about his passion for IT and for GFI itself.

Emmanuel joined GFI’s Malta office as a developer on February 22, 1999. “We were like 8 or 12 people in all when I joined,” he says. “Back then, we all knew each other personally, not just in Malta but also worldwide.”  And in line with the nature of a start-up, he recalls “wearing a number of different hats in order to get a lot of stuff done.”

The company has grown considerably since then. Today, Emmanuel manages a team of security researchers with the goal of building and maintaining the various content systems in use by GFI products, from custom vulnerability checks to patch management for Microsoft and third-party products to antivirus updates. “We also research protocols, malware and software; prototype new technologies; and evaluate third-party solutions for security effectiveness before they are adopted by our products.”

Emmanuel is quick to share what he loves best about working in IT:

“The most fascinating part is just how vast the field is. No matter how many things you learn, how many things you experiment with, there is always something new to experience and discover. This is one field where, no matter how much you know, you really don’t know enough.”

Asked about downsides of a career in IT, Emmanuel talks about pain points that will be familiar to many TalkTechToMe readers:

“The thing about building systems is that there is a ton of stuff that can go wrong. IT seems to have a life of its own, and when do things go wrong? When it’s the most inconvenient, of course!”

With a smile, he adds: “In the 15 years I’ve been working here, I don’t think there was a single time that I was sick and didn’t have to connect from home to see to some emergency.”  He recalled one occasion when he had to work from a cruise ship between sky and sea, but added: “IT gave me a break during my honeymoon. I don’t think anything happened on that holiday, or perhaps I simply wasn’t told!”

A lifelong relationship with learning

Emmanuel’s passion for the field is evident and is also reflected in his advice to those considering a career in IT.

“IT is something you need to love, live and experience,” he states. “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that whatever you study at school is enough. That barely scratches the surface. You need to experiment on your own at home. Don’t be afraid to use a system that differs from the one you might end up using at work. No knowledge is ever wasted.”

He recommends a lifelong relationship with learning, with an emphasis on knowing how things work as opposed to specifically knowing how to do something step by step.

The opportunity to continuously learn and grow, coupled with the exciting international dimensions, are key points that drive Emmanuel’s dedication to GFI.

Prior to his GFI days, Emmanuel worked for MITTS, the Malta government IT agency. “At the time, in 1997, it felt like I had it made. It was probably the largest IT company in Malta and we took care of software and systems that made the whole government infrastructure work.”

However, his move to GFI gave him a new perspective. “It is a different dimension: Our software products are used by not just one but many governments, and by large institutions like NASA. When I was a child, I wanted to be an astronaut or build space probes. Well, at least I got close,” he beams.

Sharing information

A love for research and learning is also at the center of Emmanuel’s blog posts:

“I enjoy researching. Even if I am familiar with the subject, I want to make sure what I know is in fact correct and I look up references to strengthen my argument. That in turns leads to learning new things.”

Another compelling factor is seeing that his input is valued. “It’s a special feeling when the stuff you write is picked up by others and spreads around. It’s a good feeling to see that what you write is important enough to people that they in turn share it with others.”

That is also why he loves reviewing comments:

“When readers engage with you and share their thoughts on the subject, that’s the most important and enjoyable part of writing blogs.”

Five favorites

Favorite movieDogVille
Favorite bandNightwish, Within Temptation and Epica
Favorite book‘The Commonwealth Saga’ by Peter F. Hamilton (“It’s actually six books.”)
Favorite superheroJean Grey
Favorite IT toolLinux

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