SpaceX’s Elon Musk Can Be “A Total Hard-Ass”, According To His Former CIO

As far as cool tech companies go, working for one helmed by Elon Musk has gotta be the pinnacle. I mean, the guy’s planning a mission to Mars for fuck’s sake. 

Cyber security expert Branden Spikes was lucky enough to work with Elon across a number of his ventures as Chief Information Officer. Brandon not only got to implement and maintain a one hell of an IT network, he also got an insight into one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs of our time. 
Finishing up at private space company SpaceX, Brandon decided it was time to launch his own company, Spikes Security. We sat down with the legend to talk about his time with Elon, his thoughts on cyber security and if he reckons we’ll get to Mars anytime soon. 
So why leave such an incredible venture in the first place? The inspiration, he says, came from his pals. 
“Maybe the story starts before SpaceX, because Elon’s company before that was PayPal and that’s where I was first exposed to, I guess, the concept that anybody can start a company and do so successfully given the right circumstances,” he told PEDESTRIAN.TV. “A lot of my friends did it. Numerous great companies came out of that environment.

It was at the 10 year reunion of PayPal that he decided to start planning his move into solo town. 
“That was probably the moment when I was like “oh man, all these guys are killing it”, you know. I should be able to do something cool,” he said.  
“So that was when I sort of started incubating the idea, or actually, many ideas. I kept a list of things I maybe one day thought could be a cool company and when the list got long enough, I sat down one day and did the venn diagram exercise – which of the things on this list, if any of them, meet all the criteria? 
When I arrived at one that was really a kick-ass idea, that’s when I decided to go after it.” 

With a focus on making the web a safe place for everyone, Branden’s venture has a unique focus on education rather than relying solely on software as a solution. From a millennial perspective, he joked that “Going online,” is the biggest mistake we’re making. 

“It’s bad out there man,” he said, laughing. 
“It’s literally impossible to take [anyone] – especially millennials – offline. Can’t be done. So we have to deal with, essentially, an unsafe environment. So, education man. Be aware of what’s going on.” 

Being one of the first to come on board with Elon, Branden didn’t necessarily have the same recruitment process as everyone, although he reckons that worked in his favour. 

“I never interviewed with [Elon], and I think that was a unique thing because I know everyone else did and he’s a tough interviewer,” he said. “Many years later I actually asked him to interview me just for kicks and I totally failed. [Laughs] At least I think I did, I dunno.”

Being portrayed as a saviour of humanity places some incredibly huge expectations on Musk and his ventures. Having an inside perspective on the man behind the media was a particularly interesting point of conversation, so we whacked it into a video for y’all. Suss it below. 

Having worked for an aerospace company like SpaceX, he was certainly exposed to thoughts and opinions on space travel and potentially one day, could have had an opportunity to head into the final frontier himself. Just not the first one. 

“You know, there’s a sharp division in the employees in the company about that answer,” he said. “Some of them are vehemently opposed to going to space and some of them are really for it.” 
“I wouldn’t go on the first flight, I don’t think, but I’d probably go on a future flight. This stuff is scary and hard, man. I mean, it’s risky even if it’s the hundredth flight.”

He’s definitely got a point. Rocket science is hard as shit.

The topic reminded Brandon of another interesting question regarding the company’s pursuit of reusability – is a used rocket better or worse than a new one? 

“I kinda think a used rocket’s better because it’s proven. But I think the conventional wisdom right now is that the new one’s better and I think that’s about to probably change.” 

In terms of Elon taking the trip himself, Branden can’t quite make the call.

“Maybe. I couldn’t say. I think that he would like to. I think he’s pretty ambitious,” he said.
Extremely ambitious. Getting humans to Mars is no easy feat, and one that still feels a long way from realisation. The truth is, it’s likely much closer than we all think. Branden thinks either way, we absolutely should not rush it. 

“Hopefully we take our time,” he said. “I think it’s not as important to get there as it is to get back, and it’s not easy.”

Photo: Getty.