Reddit's Matt Johansen on renouncing superhero culture and what comes after "shift left"

Reddit's Matt Johansen on renouncing superhero culture and what comes after "shift left"

Mar 29, 2024

In this week’s episode of The Future of Security Operations podcast, Thomas is joined by Matt Johansen. Matt is a security veteran who has helped defend startups, the biggest financial companies in the world, and everything in between. Alongside his day job as Head of Software Security at Reddit, he teaches companies how to protect against cyber attacks, and coaches entrepreneurs and CISOs that need help with infrastructure, application, cloud, and security policies. He also writes Vulnerable U, a weekly newsletter that talks about embracing the power of vulnerability for growth.

Thomas and Matt discuss:

  • Moving from a large security team at Bank of America to a small one at Reddit
  • Embracing scrappiness and doing more with less
  • Overcoming sunk-cost fallacy
  • Why the 2014 Sony hack was a pivotal time for AppSec
  • Running the threat research centre at White Hat
  • What he looks for when hiring in AppSec, the SOC and beyond
  • His decision to start creating content about mental health in security
  • Moving past imposter syndrome
  • Renouncing superhero culture
  • Paved paths and guardrails, and what comes next after "shift left"
  • Lessons learned from Reddit's 2023 security incident
  • The power of automating incident response

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Where to find Matt Johansen:

Vulnerable U newsletter:

Where to find Thomas Kinsella:


Resources mentioned:

The Tech Professional's Guide to Mindfulness by Matt Johansen:
Matt's piece on developer experience in the Vulnerable U newsletter:
Reddit's post on a February 2023 incident:
Collaborative Incident Response Best Practices: Don't Rely on Superheroes by Matt Johansen:
Threat modeling depression by Matt Johansen:

In this episode:
[02:14] Going from long-time Reddit user to employee
[04:50] Running AppSec at Reddit
[07:30] Being the internet's punching bag and boxing gloves
[10:30] Building a team from scratch at White Hat and lessons learned from the 2014 Sony hack
[15:10] Matt's approach to hiring
[21:15] His decision to create content about mental health in security
[23:20] Turning his Twitter network into his IRL network
[27:55] Moving past imposter syndrome
[30:00] Tools for safeguarding your mental health in incident response
[36:20] Preserving work-life balance for his teams at Reddit
[39:15] Moving past "shift left", and paved path to production and guardrails
[47:40] Lessons learned from a February 2023 incident at Reddit
[51:20] Renouncing superhero culture
[52:20] Automating incident response
[54:12] Connect with Matt