Alexandre from RHEA Groupe France

Alexandre – Chief Technology and Security Officer RHEA Groupe France

Alexandre is Chief Technology and Security Officer (CTO and CSO) of RHEA Groupe France. He is also Chief Technology Officer of RHEA Cybersecurity France, RHEA’s joint venture with Amarante International.

Where are you based?

I am based in Toulouse, France, in the new office opened by RHEA in 2022. I am attached to RHEA Groupe France, whose main role is to support the company’s activities with its customers and partners based in France, in particular the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Commission (EC) and the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA), as well as Amarante International and Amarante Espace customers.

How long have you worked at RHEA?

I started working at RHEA in 2016 as a Senior Security Advisor at EUSPA in Toulouse. My mission was to support the Agency in the implementation of asecurity governance system for EGNOS, the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service. This involved establishing processes and interfaces between the main European institutions and industry players, and supporting the definition of security accreditation strategies, including systems security, physical and operations security.

A second part of my mission concerned the operational implementation of the security strategy.

When the EUSPA security team grew, I switched to working on the physical security of the ground segments. EGNOS relies on over 50 ground stations, half of which are based in Europe. These are critical infrastructures that have to meet high security requirements to deter, delay, monitor, detect and respond to breaches of site integrity. The threats are varied: intrusion, sabotage, espionage, physical damage and so on.

Then, in September 2021, RHEA offered me the chance to become CTO and be the security interface of the new entity that was to be set up in France and be involved in the creation of RHEA Cybersecurity France. The latter is a joint venture between RHEA Group and Amarante International, a key European player in strategic intelligence, the safety and protection of organizations and critical technologies.

What is your favourite aspect of your job?

The most attractive aspect of my job is getting to know our clients’ businesses and, first and foremost, space. The variety of missions, the technological and geopolitical challenges, and the complexity of the systems and standards we help to define is also particularly stimulating.

As CTO and CSO of RHEA Groupe France, I have to improve processes. I am in charge of improving RHEA’s service offering and responsible for contributing to the improvement of internal processes, in order to be compliant with the highest standards at EU level.

What made you want to work in the space/security sector?

Security is a family affair! My father worked in personal safety and risk prevention in the use of machine tools and my younger sister studied food safety. I was more attracted to law enforcement.

After studying Information Systems Security Management, I started my career as a consultant. I had the opportunity to work on the security and cybersecurity governance of critical, complex and embedded systems for the defence industry, as well as for the armed forces and NATO. In this sector, systems are subject to specific security approvals, and over time I developed a recognized expertise in this field.

It was this expertise that led me to the space sector, where there was a severe lack of skills. And once the space adventure began, notably in the service of ESSP (European Satellite Services Provider) and EUSPA, it never stopped.

What has been your most memorable career highlight?

I have always wanted to work on unusual, uncommon projects. As a specialist in critical systems security, I had the opportunity to work for airports. This type of infrastructure has extremely complex systems, particularly for baggage sorting, the control tower or the centralized technical management (CTM).

I also had the opportunity to work on the security of on-board weapon systems on French Navy ships, such as the French aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle – a 260m ship, powered by two nuclear reactors, which can carry up to 2,200 sailors and 40 aircraft. That was a unique experience!

Would you recommend a career in this sector?

Cybersecurity issues in the space sector are growing. Product cycles in the space sector are long, while computer technologies are evolving very rapidly. This creates challenges, especially for the maintenance of space systems in the face of cyber threats. In the future, therefore, we will increasingly need people who are familiar with cyber technologies and have a detailed understanding of the space sector.

Do you have any tips for people trying to get jobs in this sector?

Be curious! You need to understand the business constraints and needs in order to provide appropriate cybersecurity solutions. We do not do security for security’s sake. Security is always at the service of a business.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I have many passions, they allow me to escape, to relax. One of my passions is trail riding. I took part in the Suzuki V-Strom Experience; for four days we rode through the Eastern Pyrenees, between the sea and the mountains. Falling is part of the game and I did not escape it. I fell several times, in the sand and stones…. But it is by falling that you learn to get up again.

I also have another passion: barbecuing! Or to be precise, the ‘smoking’ of food, whether hot or cold, for a starter or even dessert. The variety of flavours, depending on the type of wood used (beech, oak, apple or hickory), the dry or wet marinades, the tenderness of a tasty meat cooked for hours in ‘low and slow’ mode… it is a real pleasure for the palate!