Employee Spotlight: One Minute with Josh Mahonin

Since Interset's early days, Josh has been a key steward of our security analytics technology.


Josh Mahonin, an enthusiastic, innovative and dedicated software architect, has been an integral part of Interset’s journey since our early days. Starting off as a senior software developer, Josh has grown his skill set in lock-step with the business. Today, he stewards the architecture of our security analytics solution as Architect Team Lead.

Josh brings to the table hands-on experience with software development for large enterprises such as the Canadian Bank Note Company and Ross Video. With a passion for development and big data, Josh is also a committer and Project Management Committee (PMC) member for Apache Phoenix, an open-source project that enables online transaction processing and operational analytics for Apache Hadoop.

Josh received a B.Sc. in Software and Computing from Carleton University.

Q: How did you come into this field of work?

I started my career in software at Canadian Bank Note Company—the people who physically print money for Canada and a number of other countries. I spent a number of years there, where software and network security was a big focus of mine. Ultimately, it’s continued to be a major theme throughout my career.

I joined Interset in its early days because I was intrigued by the idea of an endpoint agent as a cybersecurity tool. As it turns out, the data is super valuable for the use case, but it really shines once you add some analytics and machine learning to it!

Q: What do you feel are the biggest benefits and opportunities associated with leveraging open-source technologies for security analytics the way that Interset does?

From an engineering perspective, the barriers to entry are just so low with open-source software. The code is readily available to dig through, and on good projects, there’s up-to-date documentation and an active community willing to help out. In Interset’s case, we’ve made a point not just to use open-source software as part of our solution, but also to contribute enhancements back as well. In the long run, open-source acts as a force-multiplier for the engineering team, since we get to leverage the new features and bug fixes also contributed by the larger community.

From a product perspective, I think in the “big data” world many organizations are concerned about using open standards to avoid vendor lock-in. Interset’s use of open-source software gives our customers the flexibility and freedom to swap out components and add or change capabilities in a way that’s not possible with proprietary solutions. Open-source isn’t a silver bullet, and it does come with its own unique challenges, but I think it’s a strategy that’s worked really well for Interset and our customers.

Q: What do you find to be the most rewarding or inspiring part of your job?

For me, there are two parts to this which are closely related. Interset is a Canadian company headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario, where the majority of the engineering staff live and work. A lot of us have analytics and security backgrounds and have at one point or another looked at other amazing technology companies being created and thought, “What’s so special about them? Why not here? Why not us?” In response, we’ve buckled down and built an industry-leading cybersecurity analytics tool which we’re all incredibly proud of.

The second aspect is Interset has always had a strong intern program in which we hire on a few local university students each semester as part of a work-study placement. Their hard work and enthusiasm are contagious, and it’s rewarding to help share some of the big data and machine learning expertise that we’ve built up with the next generation of engineers and entrepreneurs.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring software architects?

I don’t think I necessarily set out to become a software architect, but I think a few strategies helped get me to this point:

  1. Never stop learning and try to absorb as much as what’s out there as possible. There’s a wealth of code, books, presentations, and project post-mortems that all give valuable insight into the architecture of software systems.
  2. Never stop building. Just like writing or playing piano, constant, and continuous practice is the only way to hone your chops. Whether it’s a new feature on an enterprise web app or a hobby Arduino project, the time spent is all an investment on your skills down the road.
Rapid-fire Round

Q: Coffee or tea?
A: Coffee. Probably too much.

Q: Classical or hip-hop?
A: Hip-hop, but more on the old school side. Some of my favorite artists: Grandmaster Flash, Pete Rock, The Roots, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan.

Q: Tropical beach or urban cityscape?
A: It’s dark and snowy in Ottawa for half the year, so I’ll take the beach any day (but especially in February).

Q: Electric toothbrush or regular toothbrush?
A: I use a boring old manual toothbrush. No wires or batteries to worry about!

Q: Ice hockey or curling?
A: That’s a tough call, I’m a big fan of both. In the end, though, I’d rather watch ice hockey than play, and I’d rather play curling rather than watch.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn.