Just days before he was due to lead the largest ever delegation of Australian cybersecurity companies to the giant RSA Conference in San Francisco, AustCyber’s inaugural chief executive Craig Davies has unexpectedly left the organisation.
Mr Davies was appointed as the inaugural chief executive of the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network (ACSGN) – subsequently rebranded as AustCyber – in December 2016 after a long career in the private sector.
As a former director of security Atlassian and chief security officer at Cochlear, Mr Davies’ appointment was had been heralded as a huge coup for government, bringing together private sector nous together with deep cyber expertise into an industry development role for the sector.
He announced his departure via an email post to cyber industry colleagues early on Wednesday morning and later on LinkedIn. He has been replaced as CEO from today by AustCyber’s current chief operating officer Michelle Price.
Ms Price confirmed that she found out she was taking over as the new AustCyber CEO on Tuesday.
Speaking to InnovationAus.com, Mr Davies said simply that the establishment phase of the ACSGN was now complete, and that he was looking forward to taking a break.
“We have been able to achieve what we wanted to do, and it’s probably a good time for me to take a break,” he said. “And I am really incredibly proud of what we have been able to achieve in the first 12-18 months.”
In his earlier email to colleagues, Mr Davies said “We’ve helped many companies to think differently about their growth path, moved education in the right direction, negotiated agreements with the States and Territories to establish innovation nodes across the country and set out a plan to make Australia a global force in the cyber security market.”
“I’ve built a strong team, and now is a good time for me to step back and focus on some other areas that I feel passionate about,” he said.
Mr Davies had been scheduled to lead the AustCyber/Austrade delegation of 48 Australian companies and 12 government departments and educational institutions – more than 100 cyber specialists – to the 2018 RSA Conference.
While the resignation came as a surprise to the rest of the industry, Ms Price said the view from inside the organisation was not quite as unexpected.
“The timing was just a little bit quicker than expected,” Ms Price told InnovationAus.com. “But at the end of the day Craig has left for his reasons and it is really up to him to speak to that.”
It is understood that Mr Davies was at one point going to lead the Australian delegation to the RSA Conference, but decided it made more sense to allow the ongoing leadership team to take that role, rather than for him to announce that he would leave as soon as the delegation returned.
The appointment of Ms Price as CEO represents something of a turnaround in thinking for the ACSGN, which was a $30 million-plus initiative announced as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) in 2015.
The appointment of Mr Davies was considered a coup because it brought private sector experience to what is a government industry development role. Until 2017, Ms Price had been a career public servant, most recently as senior advisor on domestic cyber policy within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Prior to joining AustCyber as chief operating officer, Ms Price had a short stint at the Australian National University as a senior adviser on cyber security at the National Security College.
Australian Information Security Association chairman Damien Manuel praised Mr Davies tenure at AustCyber for giving the work of cyber security professionals a higher profile in mainstream conversations.
Craig has been instrumental in helping to increase the quality of the conversation around Australia’s capabilities in cyber security,”Mr Manuel said.
“He contributed greatly to the industry and Australia from a number of perspectives – helping to stimulate the startup culture in the cyber security sector, coordinating education in TAFE and universities and lifting the visibility and awareness of the importance of cyber security to Australia from an economic, societal and business perspective,” he said.