July 18, 2023
Cruise is an autonomous car company that aims to safely connect people with places, things and experiences with a growing fleet of vehicles in a number of cities across the U.S. We sat down with Kyle Walsh, Senior Manager of Global Security with Cruise, to talk about how the role of security teams continues to change and expand, and how a proactive mindset is necessary to help keep an organization safe and keep business running smoothly 24/7.
Note: Kyle’s answers have been slightly edited for clarity and brevity but you can hear his full comments by watching the video here.
What challenges do you face when manually monitoring for threats and disruptions?
From my experience with other organizations, it’s just so much harder. You end up building TweetDecks and other tools, but then you're constantly pressing refresh.
And so you then have to end up getting people who, not only a lot of people, but a lot of people that know exactly what they're doing and exactly what they're looking for. And it's such a niche capability to be able to do that.
The short answer is: I don't think you can without having an insane amount of money dedicated towards headcount.
I don't know if it is possible, especially nowadays, with the amount of misinformation that exists too. Making sure that you're having real-time information that is credible, I think, makes a world of difference.
How do you build a proactive mindset within your security team?
You never know that one thing that's really going to be super impactful for us to be able to potentially save lives, depending on the situation, and so that's what really drives me forward – and that's what I'm always trying to get with the team on.
We're a service for the organization as well. We're always thinking about, do you have a question? Do you have a concern? Did you see something? Our best eyes and ears are quite literally our folks who are on the ground.
We intake that information through the customer service desk. We have an alarm monitoring desk, an incident response desk and then the biggest piece is this intel piece.
And then things like intelligence, you're leveraging samdesk and some other tools as well, we're able to really make that the bread and butter of what we're doing.
How do you position the security team as a business enabler?
I was able to really build the program from what was initially like an officer sitting in a room and looking at cameras and logging officer breaks to making something that's truly you know an intelligence driven apparatus that enables the business.
We recognized really early on that we weren't going to be able to, and really shouldn't be, mirroring exactly what we've done at prior organizations. What we've done is we've taken the best aspects of organizations that some of us have worked with in the past, dump the things that didn't work well and also create something that's entirely new for this space.
It's not just about gates, guards and guns, or cards and guards. It's enabling the business and also enabling our stakeholders to be able to operate safely in a way that feels organic by providing the right guardrails, the right intelligence and the right protocols to ensure that we're doing things that make sense for the uniqueness of the environment too.
So we're taking that information at the samdesk level and package it up, then give it to the team to ensure that we have as many cars on the road as possible in order to maintain a business that is sustainable and is able to keep up with growth as the world continues to expand.
How have real-time crisis alerts improved your operations?
I don't just care about things happening at our static locations, although it's super important, or our travelers, also equally important, if not more so from a life safety standpoint. I now have hundreds of cars and soon to be thousands of cars on the road all throughout the city that I need to care about in real-time.
Take a city like San Francisco where our headquarters is. Things are happening constantly: police activity, fire activity, water main breaks, parades, protests, [Golden State] Warriors games. Anything that could impact the ability for our customers to end up at destinations where they need to be.
The business enablement aspect is not always about where the cars should not go. Where should some of the cars go based off this information?
Our GSOC team is currently taking this information, doing a quick risk analysis on it and then packaging it to go to the commercial operations team.
What is an example of using a real-time alert to get ahead of a crisis?
It's understanding from the business lifecycle of, OK I have this water main break incident and it’s blocking the street. I submit that to our commercial operations partners. They've submitted an area within the system that says to avoid that certain area. And then we are able to understand that, X amount of cars may have gotten stuck there otherwise.
You start equating that to dollar value and you're really then going back to the business enablement piece. It all started from a water main break alert, right? But that’s super impactful to us.
Weather is another huge one that is becoming so impactful to us. Understanding extreme cold, extreme heat, and knowing if there's expected rainfall or fog or wind – those alerts have also become so increasingly powerful to us, especially as California got such a wet winter, a lot of the information that we actually got out of samdesk ensured that we weren't going to put people at risk as a result.
What value has samdesk brought to your team and your organization?
I can't understate how important samdesk has been in this process, especially as we scale. My challenge has actually been getting as much real-time information that's been validated and is impactful to cars on the road, so that we're able to pass that information over to understand if re-routing needs to occur or move cars away from places. We need to be able to adjust all that in real-time.
One of the best things that makes samdesk sell itself is that I'm able to directly correlate that samdesk allows me to have less people looking at things. Leaders love that, right? You're not going to need as much money for this specific thing. We can invest into other aspects of the business to make money.
Being able to invest in tools like this, where you are able to show that direct correlation is huge. And so, specifically for Cruise, one of the first tools I went out and got was samdesk.
It feels like I'm working with a boutique organization a lot of the time and we've been able to build products together that almost feel bespoke to my environment, but I know that's not necessarily the case, which is kind of the beauty of it all.
Check out the full conversation between Kyle and James Neufeld, samdesk Founder and CEO, on YouTube.