Infosec management strategies and the modern CTO
Lumenta recently appointed Brandon Hoffman as their new CTO. We took this opportunity to get his perspective on the management strategies that are essential in the information security industry. He also offers advice to those stepping into the CTO role for the first time, and talks about the evolution of network situational awareness.
How have your previous roles prepared you for the CTO position with Lumeta?
The previous roles I have held prepared me in different ways for the CTO role. Some of the roles prepared me directly and some more indirectly. Having been a security practitioner, actively pen testing networks using a variety of solutions in a practical way provided more direct preparation. I received strong hands-on experience related to what solutions work and how the solutions work together to be more effective.
It is critical in the security industry to understand what is needed from an ecosystem and the practical application of different solutions to address different layers of security concerns. On the other hand, roles that have had more of a business or management focus provided more indirect preparation. These roles delivered valuable insight into the security and software industry as businesses, which is critical to keep Lumeta focused strategically. Having come up through the ranks of technology and touching so many pieces of the industry, including network and data center admin, wireless, security, sales engineering and management, provided a strong foundation to tackle the cross functional demands of security leadership.
What do you see as your strengths?
My strengths really come from having the technology foundation built by organic career growth. It is critical in the security industry to understand all components of technology and operations that customers have to deal with. Gaining exposure early on in my career provided the necessary experience with people, process, and technology to understand what is effective and what isn’t. The resultant set of those experiences lead to what I consider my biggest strength, vision. A CTO needs a vision that is fostered by a passion for technology but tempered by the reality of the industry. This vision sets the strategic direction and leads to continued innovation in solution delivery.
What advice would you give to those stepping into the CTO role for the first time?
The CTO role has evolved over the past twenty years. As a CTO the responsibility is less related to development management and more related to thought leadership and creating a technical game plan that extends beyond a single product or solution. The CTO needs to deeply understand the challenges faced by the industry and deliver a vision that is not only innovative but is also effective in execution. My best advice to people stepping into the CTO role for the first time would be to leverage all of your experience not just the most recent, be passionate, and inspire the people around you because great ideas come from many sources.
What management strategies are essentials in our industry? How does a company maintain momentum?
The most important management strategy in an industry like security is to avoid micromanaging. It is crucial to allow the people on your team to execute in their own way. Due to the complex nature of security, there will typically be many specialists on a team but fewer generalists. These experts have a lot to offer in their domain and that’s likely one of the reasons they are on the team, expertise. Delegate effectively, leverage expertise, listen to the team, and get involved.
One of the most important things a manager can do when responsible for a technical team is to build credibility by taking action. Nobody wants to be told what to do by somebody they don’t believe is willing to roll up their sleeves and participate. Getting involved with the team, your peers in industry, and customers or practitioners will provide vital insight. Gathering this insight and filtering it back into the management, vision, and tactical plan helps maintain the company’s stride. Without individual, team, and market or industry validation it is easy to lose sight of what provided the initial momentum and what adjustments are necessary to maintain it.
How do you see network situational awareness evolving in the next five years?
Network situational awareness is definitely gaining momentum in the industry. Evolving from the basic idea of understanding the environment around you can include simply driving down the road or extended to battlefield situations. Intelligence gathering or reconnaissance is a primary component for warfare tactics. In cyber, the battlefield is the network and the application of network situational awareness to cyber security becomes more complex. This complexity speaks to the necessity of network situational awareness. In the case of cyber, the reconnaissance needs to occur on your own assets first to provide foundational intelligence. This foundational intelligence is required for the products, people, and processes to successfully combat cyber threats, defend assets and predict threats in a continuous way.
As the people responsible for securing networks continue to refine their strategy and tactics by building complex defense platforms and integrated solution stacks, one thing is becoming more clear: you have to understand the network in a static and dynamic state to be effective. As a concept in cyber, network situational awareness is just coming into its own. The idea and execution of network situational awareness will continue to evolve as the need for this data becomes more understood and accepted. The security industry has begun to accept that a move away from point products and towards platforms and integrated solutions is necessary. Network situational awareness is the key to enabling those solutions.