In military circles, there’s a quote from Prussian General Helmuth von Moltke the Elder that is frequently recited: “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” In war and day-to-day life, the only certainty is uncertainty. We can plan our lives step-by-step, but it is all for naught if we are unprepared to meet the unforeseen obstacles or even outright failures that sometimes lie ahead. Great leaders do not live their lives, hoping these things never happen; they treat them as inevitable and practice resilience. Thanks to this mindset, former student Ray Rothrock ‘77 has become a leader in his field and a vigilant protector against cyberthreats.
From age 13 to midway through his postgraduate education, Rothrock maintained a single focus for his future: He was going to be a nuclear engineer. He earned his bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from Texas A&M University. However, in his first year of his master’s at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the unthinkable happened: nuclear meltdown at the Three Mile Island power plant in Pennsylvania irrevocably damaged public opinion toward nuclear energy, stunting the industry considerably.
His lifelong career path having all but vanished, Rothrock pivoted. A National Geographic article about Silicon Valley (then still in its infancy) inspired him to move to California and enter the tech industry. There, he joined two unsuccessful startups before striking gold at the successful Sun Microsystems. After earning his MBA from Harvard, Rothrock launched a prosperous career as a venture capitalist evaluating, investing and coaching founders of startup companies.
Today, between mentoring chief executives and investing in startups, Rothrock is a thought leader in cybersecurity. As the CEO of RedSeal, a cyber risk modeling company, he helps businesses and government agencies mitigate the risk of cyberattacks by making their internal networks more resilient. In addition to being a vocal proponent of national cybersecurity efforts and carbon-free nuclear energy, Rothrock and his wife, Meredith, are also devoted supporters of Texas A&M’s engineering, liberal arts and music initiatives.
Rothrock excelled in the face of setbacks because he didn’t let them diminish the scope of what he could do. He studied in a wide variety of fields beyond his chosen career path so that he was prepared to apply himself to wherever opportunity called. Thanks to his professional elasticity, he can now live out his values by protecting others from harm. Remember: You may not have control over the future, but you can always work to make yourself stronger in the face of new challenges. And who knows. New doors might open that you could never have dreamed of.
Thanks and Gig ’em,
Tyson Voelkel ’96
President, Texas A&M Foundation