How one tech exec at $1.7bn cybersecurity firm Darktrace overcame a tough family background and landed a job one of Europe's biggest unicorns

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How one tech exec at $1.7bn cybersecurity firm Darktrace overcame a tough family background and landed a job one of Europe's biggest unicorns

Mike Beck, Darktrace

Mike Beck, Darktrace

Mike Beck

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  • Mike Beck is the global head of threat analysis at cybersecurity unicorn Darktrace.
  • He grew up in a small market town in Somerset, where he was one of the few mixed-race kids in town and with his father not around.
  • Mike told Business Insider that forcing himself into new situations was what gave him the confidence to get where he is today.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

What was life like for you growing up?

I was raised in Highbridge, a former market town in Somerset, by my mum. My dad left before I was born so she was on her own.

My dad was Sri Lankan and my mum white British so, you know, being a mixed-race kid in Somerset in the late 80s could be tough. Almost everyone was white and had both of their parents around.

How did you cope?

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I think I started finding my groove in my teenage years. Being good at sport definitely helped me fit in. Getting into the school football team allowed me to establish myself.

I enjoyed learning too, so I ended up getting streamed into the top classes. That can really be the make-or-break for a lot of people.

What was your first break in tech?

I deferred my place at the University of Plymouth to do a "year in industry" scheme with House of Fraser. I got a job with their IT department, which basically meant driving around the country, checking their systems and fixing their cash registers - they even gave me a company car!

For a 19-year-old who'd spent his whole life in Somerset, that was an adventure.

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Have you ever felt alienated because of your background?

Not too much, in all honesty - although there were moments.

I went to work for GCHQ after university and I definitely noticed some differences between me and my colleagues there. Most of them went to very prestigious universities and I was aware Plymouth wasn't really in that category. I remember one person asking me where I had been schooled...That's always a weird one.

What advice would you give to someone of a similar background to yours who wants to get into tech?

For me, the most important thing was putting myself into new situations that forced me to develop confidence.

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I knew I couldn't compete with the privately-educated kids that had that drilled into them, so it had to come from somewhere else.

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