Growing up in Carrigaline in Cork I loved maths and played rugby. When picking my CAO courses, I figured that if I graduated in three years this would tie in with the Rugby World Cup in Cardiff. So that was a big motivator to study business and IT there.
My second college summer in 2000 I worked in Washington DC on a J1 visa in sales for an internet connection firm. It was the height of the dotcom boom and the money was obscene.
I got caught up in the excitement and considered staying. My mum called to check what return flight I was on and I told her: "I'm not coming home, Breda. There's serious money to be made here."
She said don't be ridiculous, the bubble was not sustainable and if I didn't get my ass on that plane and finish my degree she would fly over and drag me out.
She won and she was right. The day I flew back, a colleague in DC who was about to retire had $4m (€3.5m) in his pension. Before the wheels had landed, this crashed to $100,000.
I finished my course and started working for web-hosting services firm Worldport in Blanchardstown for a year before it went bankrupt. My business customers needed a new home and asked me to help.
So that is how, aged 22, I set up my own broker technology services firm, Zevas Communications. I later sold this to my business partner, and I have been self-employed since.
I set up Smarttech in 2006. Four years later we moved from IT services to focus full time on cybersecurity - an afterthought for most firms at that stage. But I knew things were going to change.
When I got into this business it was far from mainstream. I spent a tough two years banging on doors with nobody interested.
I was on the precipice of giving up - you can't keep trying forever with no reward no matter how much you believe in what you have to offer.
So I picked a deadline and if things had not changed by then, I'd throw in my hat and get a job.
In 2012 I had a meeting with the director of IT at the Royal College of Surgeons, Enda Kyne, and told myself beforehand that if this doesn't happen, I'm walking away. I got the gig and not long after that, a company I had previously approached had its heating ventilation hacked. Then a bunch of others had breaches - and overnight it went from closed doors to 'bring in that fella Murphy'.
At the start of 2018 I set up Getvisability because companies were asking us where their data was stored, and who had access. So we came up with software that uses AI to find and protect data.
Starting up in software development is a massive undertaking. There is huge competition and a global skills shortage for building enterprise software.
It is immensely rewarding to build something from nothing, grow and get customers.
Any success I have had has been anything but effortless. But I find that if I put everything into my short-term goals, on getting the best outcomes that day, these add up. You can dream too hard. This 'big dream' focus can be unhelpful and off-putting as it's the little steps that get you to your goals.
Cybersecurity is a bloody stressful environment but it's tremendously exciting. I never turn off my phone - I am available 24/7. I get calls at 4am all the time and I know it's bad news before I pick up. We see the ugly underside of the internet.
I'm regularly negotiating with hackers to pay hundreds of thousands of euro. The number one message is don't give them money. This is hard to do when you cannot turn on your computer in work and everything is gone, including backups. We notify Europol, we notify the police, but often it comes down to horse-trading.
The weakest link
We are like air traffic controllers - because we do a lot of good stuff that is invisible. I get a lot of panic calls.
One Irish engineering company had hackers break in and sit watching for months. They saw the company paid €500,000 monthly to its suppliers. So in the middle of February they requested, in a cheerful and chatty email, that this should be sent to a new Chase Manhattan account. The money was sent. When I answered that call I was in Washington DC at an event with the head of fraud at the FBI.
I tapped him on the shoulder and asked for his help. We stopped the transfer, but it emerged the company had previously sent €200,000 and lost that. The human being is always the weakest link; it's heartbreaking sometimes.
I'm up at 6am despite never getting to sleep early. I have a huge problem switching off and have insomnia that is genetic, so I am up until all hours.
During Covid-19 I started cycling the 60km round trip to my office in Cork Airport Business Park which made a massive difference to how I felt. Stress is unavoidable, but this really helps manage it, and I found my sleep improved.
We had a skeleton crew during the pandemic and the roads were dead, but now traffic is back, the commute by bike is too hairy but I'm keeping up the long cycles on weekends.
Pre-Covid I travelled loads and I would use hotel gyms to burn off the stress. When I go to North America I find I put on weight, but in Saudi or Bahrain it's the opposite. They eat late with just espressos and a few dates during the day, and no alcohol.
In the winter I may stay on later in the office but in summer try to leave at 6pm. I have two children aged seven and 11 and we live on a farm with cats, dogs and horses. So even though I'll have the phone with me, the change of scene hanging out with them is a rest and a tonic.
My wife thankfully handled the home schooling; sometimes Russian hackers can be more reasonable than kids.
I miss the family when I am abroad and try to get back for weekends.
It was a novelty at the start not to be getting on planes every week. But now I miss the cut and thrust. In this business, travelling and meeting others is where you see the possibilities. It can be sensitive information, and talking openly face to face is key. I miss humans and I can't wait to get back out there.