Celebrating Our Veterans: Chris Knox of CPS Energy on his Time in the Air Force and the Transition to the Utility Sector- [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Interview]

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  • Nov 8, 2021

To celebrate Veterans Day this upcoming Thursday, November 11th, the Energy Central Community Team will be shining a light on the many outstanding utility professionals in our network who also spent time in the military.  This week, we'll be featuring interviews with these veterans sharing how they found their way into the industry. We will also highlight their unique perspectives of the industry and how they are influencing the utility space.  

All the interviews will be collected at this special Veterans Day 2021 topic tag.

To all the veterans in the Energy Central Community, we want to say thank you for your service and we wish you a Happy Veterans Day. 

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Chris Knox originally wanted to be an architect. What path took him to his current job as Senior Manager, Cybersecurity Risk & Assurance for CPS Energy in San Antonio?

His family was struggling financially, and he dropped out of college, so he decided that the best way to get an education was in the Air Force. The high scores he got in the aptitude test graded him for the field of intelligence analysis. After rising up in COMSEC and the early years of what we now call cybersecurity, he moved to train personnel in leadership at the Lackland NCO Academy. After 20 years in the service, he felt it was time for something different, so he left to become a consultant in training, employee development, and leadership skills.

Chris says, "I worked for various industries before coming into the energy space. While I was working as a training manager, I got to swapping war stories with a director who also had a military background.  He said, 'You understand security, and you understand training. We need a security training program built.' So I got invited to come over to the department in a rotational role. After about eight months in the role, they actually created a position for me." He now managed the growing security team and broadened his cybersecurity role.

"When I was in the Air Force, I was monitoring radio and telephone communications. As an analyst, you typically will listen to the communication and look for anomalies similar to any other type of analysis or forensics or investigations. You start to see something's out of place. This is not normal. That raises a red flag. Then you take action."

He applies his military investigation processes to cybersecurity. You're looking for the anomalies, which are usually the signs that somebody is trying to get in, a bad actor wanting to cause harm.”

Chris outlines security principles, “Security principles don't change. The medium has changed, but the fundamentals of security have not changed. Security is all about access and who has access.

"One of the things that I cover in my classes is if you think about where you live – your neighborhood? You wouldn't want everybody with keys to your house and your belongings? If you have anything that's valuable, it should be protected." He goes on to say that malicious actors use deceit to gain access to critical cyber systems, and proper training and alertness are necessary for staff to avoid being fooled by people who come across as trustworthy but are not.

Chris says that former military personnel have a lot of transferable skills for the energy space. Obviously, some skills are not transferable, but each candidate will be able to bring some of the beneficial aptitudes they learned in the services and can be trained in others. "Pay attention to the needs of the organization so you can show that you will contribute to its success."

And finally, Chris concludes, "I'm a big advocate of networking; Energy Central is a great vehicle for networking. For anyone planning to leave the military, you need to build a network before you get out so you can find companies and people you would like to work with when you rejoin civilian life."

Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Nov 8, 2021

Chris, Thanks for your service and sharing your story!  

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 8, 2021

Security principles don't change. The medium has changed, but the fundamentals of security have not changed. Security is all about access and who has access.

I love this-- so applicable. Thanks for sharing, Chris, and thanks for bringing your expertise from military to the power sector! I'm sure you have a lot of people looking up to you at your organization. 

Paul Gwaltney's picture
Paul Gwaltney on Nov 12, 2021

Thank you for your service and your advocacy for veterans in the workforce.  We absolutely bring intangibles into any industry!

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