This former Google employee and cybersecurity CEO utilizes his La Salle education every day
April 24, 2023
Mike Wiacek, ’03, is the founder and CEO of Stairwell. The Lasallian values he learned at 20th and Olney are a part of his leadership strategy today.
Being passionately curious is a value Mike Wiacek, ’03, lives and works by.
The computer science and mathematics graduate has worked in cybersecurity for two decades, with time spent at Google and the U.S. Department of Defense.
He’s also operated companies of his own. Today, he is the founder and CEO of Stairwell—a cybersecurity company centered on threat detection, analysis, and incident response. The company’s flagship product, the Inception platform, delivers contextual and actionable security knowledge to organizations.
Before launching his career, Wiacek’s time at La Salle was pivotal.
One faculty member and former chair of the math and computer science department, Linda J. Elliott, was instrumental in Wiacek’s path. Elliott passed away in 2015.
When Wiacek entered La Salle, he already had some computer science experience from high school. He wandered into Elliott’s office hoping to persuade her to admit him into higher-level classes. But it wasn’t that easy.
Wiacek remembers Elliott requiring him to take final exams on the spot. If he passed, he could bypass the introductory courses and begin with the second-year students; Wiacek did. Elliott continued to challenge Wiacek when he considered leaving the University for a job with a dot com tech startup. She told him he would regret it if he left and, instead, encouraged him to challenge himself with a double major. The convincing worked and Wiacek is thankful for her advice to stay.
“It’s important to appreciate the value of an education, not because it teaches you the answer to the problem, but because a well-rounded education teaches you how to be a whole person.”
-Mike Wiacek, ’03
“It’s important to appreciate the value of an education, not because it teaches you the answer to the problem, but because a well-rounded education teaches you how to be a whole person,” he said.
Following graduate school in Baltimore, Wiacek made it to Silicon Valley and spent years working for Google. Before founding Stairwell, Wiacek was the co-founder and chief security officer of Chronicle, a company within Alphabet. At Google, he founded and managed the organization’s threat analysis group. It was one of the first threat intelligence teams outside of a government agency.
Starting Stairwell allowed Wiacek to build a company from scratch with his values. He feels a moral obligation to create something good for his customers and something successful for his investors. Every day, he reminds his employees of the Lasallian values he learned in his undergraduate years. “It’s a responsibility you feel,” he said.
In November 2022, Wiacek was honored with La Salle’s 18th Annual IT Leadership Award.
“Mike Wiacek is an inspiration to our students,” said Margaret McCoey, assistant professor and the graduate director of computer information systems and information technology leadership programs. “As an undergraduate, Mike challenged himself in his studies and he was a leader for both the math and CSC student organizations. After graduation, Mike continued to develop his talent and he has willingly shared this with the department students. Mike’s organization is dedicated to social justice, and he demonstrates his Lasallian values through his work.”
Wiacek called the recognition “humbling.” He remembers Elliott and the lessons she taught him that helped him achieve the success he has.
“I owe her so much and I’m sad I can’t tell her anymore,” he said.