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From fusion experiments to dotcoms, ICI man climbs ladder to global security chief

Will Hadfield

ICI global chief information security director Paul Simmonds has his own footnote in IT history. During the early 1990s, he was one of the first to build firewalls to protect his employer's IT systems.

At the time, Simmonds worked for the Joint European Torus (Jet) project - one of the world's most ambitious nuclear fusion experiments. His job was to connect the project's networks to the internet.

"Jet holds the solar system record for being hot. It was two and a half times hotter than the centre of the sun and we had to connect the systems behind it to the internet. We had the internet at one end and an experiment in nuclear fusion at the other," he said.

Even back then firewalls were essential to protect the experiment from hackers and viruses.

Building firewalls gave Simmonds a means of moving into a career specialising in IT security.

By the mid-1990s, he had been headhunted by telecoms company Motorola. The handset manufacturer was one of the pioneers of information security at a time when few companies, other than banks, appointed IT people to protect their systems.

Motorola hired Simmonds to ensure that the computers running its GSM network were secure. He moved on to become information security manager for Motorola's GTSS division, the largest of the company's four businesses.

"I did all the standard stuff that every large corporate does today, such as firewalls and anti-virus. Back then, however, there were very few doing that. Motorola was a leader."

Simmonds' role gave him seven years' experience of managing information security for a large corporation, and when Motorola decided to cut costs by laying off staff in 2000, Simmonds took the opportunity to move on.

"I thought 'this is the kick I need'. Motorola was a great company to work for, but there was not a great deal of future there for me. It was a great role while it lasted and I do not regret it at all," he said.

Simmonds was headhunted by a dotcom specialising in information security later in 2000. The company, called Hostmark, made Simmonds its head of information security.

Hostmark made Simmonds redundant in May 2001 after the dotcom was taken over. Rather than take the first job he could find, Simmonds held out for a position that would allow him to build on his experience.

With two high-profile information security management jobs on his CV, Simmonds had the right experience for a chief information security officer role at a major corporation.

When global chemicals and paints supplier ICI advertised for a global chief information security director in summer 2001, Simmonds was able to start in October.

"Global chief information security director roles are few and far between. Getting the ICI job was a case of being in the right place at the right time," he said.


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