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DMV Rising Conference Recap: Connecting, Learning, and Growing with Peers Never Gets Old


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    The inaugural DMV Rising cyber security conference brought together more than 100 professionals from the DMV region who are innovating at the forefront of global cyber security and risk management.

    My colleagues at Virtru and I had the honor of serving as lead organizers alongside of our founding partners Sonatype, Dragos, Palo Alto Networks, GDIT, Flashpoint, Data Tribe and more.  The conference itself was intended to foster conversations with industry leaders, connect leading practitioners with peers, and celebrate the DMV as a hub of innovation in the global cyber industry.

    Lessons from the Past, Reflections on the Present

    DMV Rising started with an observation and an idea in June.

    My observation was this: despite $600M in cyber investments in H1 2023 alone, the DMV regional economy isn't getting the credit that it deserves as a leader in global cyber innovation.

    The idea for a community conference was inspired by powerful lessons learned from the past.  Specifically, lessons taught to me by my good friends and former colleagues Derek Weeks and Mark Miller, and my experiences in helping them develop All Day DevOps into the world's largest virtual conference fostering authentic connections among engineers committed to building higher quality software faster and more securely than ever before.

    Reflecting on the present, it remained obvious that the world had been changed forever by Covid19 and the associated "work from home" revolution.  Professionals in every industry are now settling into a new normal based on hybrid work.  In this environment, I wondered if the cyber security community in the DMV region would have the appetite to join forces and organize and host an in-person conference?  After socializing the idea with a few colleagues and peer companies in the local community – the answer quickly became clear. The DMV community was hungry to get together and do something special.

    Conference Highlights

    For the conference itself, we had three simple motivations:

    1. Conversation and Learning: provide a platform for experts to share insights and innovations in the ever-evolving field of cyber security.
    2. Community Connection: offer a chance for professionals to reconnect with peers and establish new connections, reinforcing the strength of the DMV cyber community.
    3. Celebrating Innovation: openly acknowledge and highlight the DMV’s role as a leader in the global cyber market.

    In support of these motivations, we hosted three lively panel discussions:

    1. Innovating to Minimize Cyber Risk in Commercial Markets: OT, Open Source, and Data
    • Katherine D. Ledesma, Head of Public Policy & Government Affairs at Dragos
    • Alex Berry, President of Sonatype
    • John Ackerly, CEO of Virtru
    1. Zero Trust Security Transformations in Federal Markets: A Difficult and Non-Optional Journey
    • GDIT: Dr. John Sahlin, Vice President, Cyber Solutions
    • Palo Alto Networks: Coleman Mehta, Senior Director for Public Policy
    • Flashpoint: Gray Loftin, Director of Solutions Architecture, National Security
    • Moderator: Fahd Patel, Of Counsel, Morrison Foerster
    1. State of Cyber Capital Markets: Early Innovators, M&A, and Public Performance
    • Keith Stone, Brown Advisory
    • John Funge, Managing Partner at Data Tribe
    • Jeremy Schropp, Partner at King and Spalding
    • Moderator: Andy Hunn, Partner at Absaroka Advisors

    For a detailed summary of the conversations, check out Mike Laramie's excellent blog post.  Mike is Security CTO at Sada Systems and I really love the way he uses a workflow diagram to encapsulate the simple, yet powerful definition of Zero Trust offered by panelist Dr. John Sahlin, VP of Cyber Solutions at GDIT.

    Food, Drink, Fun and Special Guest

    DMV Rising wasn’t just about panels and discussions. Attendees had the opportunity to network and celebrate together at a fantastic rooftop reception, blessed with perfect weather.  Additionally, at 6pm, the event featured a special guest, Revi Sterling, Senior Director at CARE USA, who shed light on the vital intersection of humanity, digital privacy, and cyber security.


    The DMV Rising cyber security conference was a resounding success, serving as a testament to the vibrancy and innovation within the DMV’s cyber community. With the global software and cyber markets continuously growing, and with substantial investments pouring into DMV cyber initiatives, this event highlighted the region’s pivotal role in shaping the future of cyber security. It’s safe to say that DMV Rising will remain a significant event on the cyber security calendar for years to come, fostering collaboration, learning, and the celebration of cyber innovation.

    See you again next year!



    Matt Howard

    Matt Howard

    A proven executive and entrepreneur with over 25 years experience developing high-growth software companies, Matt serves as Virtu’s CMO and leads all aspects of the company’s go-to-market motion within the data protection and Zero Trust security ecosystems.

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