16 Apr CEO Of Code Dx On How To Build A Cybersecurity Company From Scratch
Anita D’Amico does business the old-fashioned way, and it works wonders
– Steven T. Kroll
Northport, N.Y. – Apr. 16, 2019
Anita D’Amico is scaling up the business at Code Dx, Inc., a trending application security company.
A Philly girl from the neighborhood, with the grit to prove it, she is an Ivy League graduate, who holds a Ph.D. in experimental psychology. D’Amico doesn’t fit in any mold, and that’s precisely the reason for her success as CEO of Code Dx.
“When I was young, I was the smart girl in the class that didn’t fit in,” says D’Amico. So she dedicated herself to education and attended the University of Pennsylvania. Seeking a professional path where a smart girl could flourish, she went on to earn a Ph.D. at Adelphi University. “Finishing my dissertation was my way of ensuring that I would remain in an intellectually exciting area.”
Armed with her newly minted doctorate, D’Amico first did research for the Merchant Marine, then worked on the Space Station project, and eventually ended up at Northrop Grumman.
“I am an experimental psychologist who wandered into cybersecurity more than 20 years ago through an unusual series of events,” says D’Amico. “I wound up starting the first information warfare team at Northrop Grumman and set up the business objectives for that organization.”
“Code Dx stands for code diagnosis, and we help diagnose security problems in software code – finding and fixing vulnerabilities in software before an attacker can exploit them” – Anita D’Amico, CEO at Code Dx
Code Dx’s software suite grew from research funded by the Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate’s Small Business Initiative Research (SBIR) program. The Secure Decisions division of Applied Visions carried out this research, and Code Dx was spun out as a new company to make the results of that research available to the entire application development community.
After succeeding in that role, Applied Visions recruited her to head up their R&D wing – Secure Decisions, which has received more than $20 million in grant funding from various government agencies under D’Amico’s tenure. D’Amico in turn takes the products designed in Secure Decisions and commercializes them for Code Dx.
So the natural question is how experimental psychology fits within the business and cybersecurity world. “When you’re studying human behavior, you have to be comfortable with gray areas or ambiguity and be willing to move forward even when you don’t understand everything,” says D’Amico. “Being comfortable with ambiguity has really helped me.”
Of course, it helps that she knows how to connect with people, which is something she picked up over the years as a leader. An expert in business development, D’Amico thinks it’s crucial to build relationships and to be as honest as possible. “I run into people now that I knew 20 years ago, and they remember doing business with me,” says D’Amico. These people are willing to work with D’Amico again because of her candor and solid reputation.
Her commitment to cultivating relationships doesn’t just stop at the executive level of business development. When she was off-camera, D’Amico told us that she consciously tries to connect with people at work who she doesn’t know, and she takes the opportunity to go out to lunch with someone new at least once a month. “It’s been a rewarding experience all around,” says D’Amico.
With an unconventional background as a cybersecurity CEO, D’Amico likes to help other people who may not fit in. “I wasn’t an engineer,” says D’Amico. “I was this experimental psychologist that had this ability to take very complex concepts and distill them into things that people could understand. I in turn want to pay that forward by giving people who don’t necessarily fit the mold a chance to succeed.”
Women like Anita D’Amico paved the way for others to follow. Because of her determination, intelligence, and atypical experience, our industry is better off.
– Steven T. Kroll is a public relations specialist and staff writer at Cybercrime Magazine.