Brendan is a 20 year veteran of the security industry. Prior to founding AppOmni, he was Security CTO at ServiceNow. Before joining ServiceNow, Brendan spent 10 years at Salesforce where he led Salesforce’s global information security organization as CSO. He is passionate about securing the technology that connects the world.
What kind of leader are you?
My mantra is “Bite off more than you can chew and grow a bigger mouth.” I like to work with people who share that thinking.
I like to give people the opportunity and resources to succeed. A candidate might present as raw material and are yet to have had a chance to achieve their potential. Often people surprise you and rise to the occasion and exceed the goal. My role is to give people a chance and then remove the obstacles in their way. You accelerate performance by removing the obstacles, allowing people to achieve and excel by doing great work, and that is my job as a leader.
What do you look for when hiring?
A base level qualification – the right technical foundation. Then it’s attitude. People who don’t quit easily. I look for evidence of when they have dug deep, and they have persevered to get the breakthrough. Achieving success via persistence.
Lastly passion. People who are excited to work in our industry, people who really want the opportunity.
Can you sustain passion?
I believe passion ebbs and flows, as with life. As a leader, my job is partly to inspire people to work hard and fast, but sometimes it is important to make sure we have balance and are ready for a marathon not a sprint.
For example leading up to RSA 2020 we were putting in long hours but I was clear that I expected everyone to schedule time off in March to recharge. Leading by example, I told the team I was taking a long weekend with my family right after the conference, and encouraged them to do the same. The value of my team is in their creativity, not time spent in a seat. In engineering, we are problem solving. I need to optimise their ability to do that, and work-life balance is a big part of that.
What is more important, acquiring or retaining talent?
If we are a great place to work, known for having some amazingly talented people on our team, others will want to join. The right people joining us, helps make the whole team stronger.
Our intention is to give people breadth of experience. We don’t want them to stay in their swim lane. We hire people with creativity, so we can’t contain them.
People are often so busy at work with daily tasks, it can be difficult to find a good time for creative thinking and research. At AppOmni we have a weekly Show & Tell meeting. We encourage team members to share their ideas, prototypes, and projects with the whole group. Its inspirational and one of my favorite meetings.
This is a program I started several years ago at Salesforce. Within the first 6 months of the program, the team created 2 Black Hat talks, several open source projects and the number of patents from the programme was huge. It was not the goal when we started the project, but the results were amazing. I was not sure what the outcomes would be when we set this up, but what we did see was some of the best work of people’s careers come out of that innovation programme.
What advice would you share with your 21-year-old self?
Don’t programme in Perl. I have some terrible programming habits as a result.. heaven help anyone who has to maintain any of my old code!
Who influenced your early career?
Mike Scott, my first boss. (This was before The Office, and yes that’s his real name.) As an Ancient history major without a computer science degree, he hired me and gave me a chance. I said ‘yes’ to everything that need to be done and he gave me permission to fail. His patience and forgiveness allowed me to learn from my mistakes. His encouragement made me believe that I could do it if I stayed persistent. I aspire to be the type of leader he was.
What do you see as the biggest challenge for leaders today?
The need to maintain velocity while protecting security. We need to go fast but be aware of the consequences of our choices. As a Security person I can’t help but consider risk. People run to the Cloud, because they see its value, but often without the security expertise to appreciate the possible repercussions.
At AppOmni, we have never found a data leak that had a malicious intent from a company insider. We have found critical leaks through misconfiguration – caused by an employee trying to do the right thing but without the right knowledge. Often the security team do not have visibility or the right guard rails in place. A small configuration change can have material consequences to data security, user privacy or even regulatory consequences.
There is a lack of process and technology in place to protect the enterprise in a distributed, perimeter less world. Over 20+ years we’ve gotten pretty good at securing the LAN, but that is becoming less relevant. We have people working remotely and connecting from home network. We have mobile and IoT traffic connecting directly to the cloud over 5G carrier networks. Controls around the LAN don’t address these challenges. This is leading to more breaches and represents a significant challenge for business leaders.
Who would you like to invite to your leadership team?
I have a love of ancient history, so I’m going to say the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. As a leader, he was a brilliant strategist, a statesman, an author, and philosopher. He bore an incredible burden of leadership. Born nearly two millennia ago, Marcus’s Meditations is perhaps the only document of its kind ever made. It is the private thoughts of the world’s most powerful man giving advice to himself on how to make good on the responsibilities and obligations of his positions. Meditations is the definitive text on self-discipline, personal ethics, humility, self-actualization, and strength.
What do you see as the biggest disruptor to the world of work?
If you asked me 2 months ago, I would have said Transportation. We are in need of scalable transportation that is faster, cleaner, and more accessible. Given the current circumstances, I think social interaction and team based collaboration are what’s needed most. We need to recognise that there is no substitute for human connection – and as leaders we need to find ways to foster and facilitate that in our organizations.