In part two of our blog series to get to know our new executives, we sat down with our recently announced SVP of Field Operations, Dean Hickman-Smith, who, like our CEO, hails from across the pond (so… you can excuse some of his UK-isms).
Thanks for joining me today, Dean. Let’s start with the top of mind question with this announcement: why did you join vArmour?
The people, the product, and the opportunity. The people make the company. I get to work with people who are incredibly good at what they do, but also incredibly humble – that echoes right through our company to the CEO and the Board. The product is unique - the team that founded the company were former colleagues at NetScreen and Juniper and they recognized that solving the problem of securing the virtualized world was going to be big so they spent a long time building the right solution, taking the right approach. And the opportunity is massive - what other “start-ups” can count a few of the top 10 banks, world’s largest global carriers and top 100 retailers as their customers, so early on?
Not many, that’s for sure! Talking to these customers, what is their biggest security challenge that they are trying to overcome?
Most of the customers we get to talk to are challenged to roll out new services faster than ever before - users are asking for new applications, more devices are hitting the network, more third parties want access – but guess what - at the same time, they’re being asked to perform within a static budget and no additional headcount – so that’s compelling them to push towards virtualized or cloud solutions. That, combined with the increase in mobility and “openness” of the business environment, makes securing infrastructure really hard.
So then, as the head of our sales organization, give us your 30-second pitch on how vArmour solves that challenge.
vArmour has built the first distributed security system that can secure the critical business assets (data) of the transformational companies I described above – companies that need security in their new world without perimeters.
Sounds like you’ve already nailed the pitch. Since you’re building out a high-performing sales team - what are the three qualities you look for in every person you hire?
Credibility means that they do their research, are accurate in what they say, and can technically and commercially add value in their interaction with our customers. Are they the type of people that our customers will want to work with and do they fit with the amazing team already at vArmour?
Humility is being humble, honest, open and direct towards the people we do business with, so our customers respect them and know they will go the distance for them. Our product is a core component of a customer’s infrastructure, and we recognize they are trusting us with their career in many cases when selecting vArmour, so we need people that respect that.
And lastly, I look for passion - the energy, direction and stamina for this type of work. This is not a 9-5 type of company - we work global deals, change time zones and need to be ready for work the minute we arrive. As I say, my team is always “on time and ready to play.” So each member needs to be passionate about what we are doing.
And aside from our field team, you’ll be building out our channel network. Why is the channel so important to the success of vArmour and, more importantly, our customers?
Very simply, we cannot scale fast enough without close partnership with a select network of value-added channel partners. We fulfill all of our customer deployments through the channel; 100%. They are a true extension of our organization and our channel program will treat them as such - they will get training and development much the same as my employees, only we will deliver it in smaller pieces.
So with both our direct and partner field teams, what are your guiding principles you constantly remind them of?
Value is the sum total of all the below: help the customer solve difficult problems in a new and elegant way, expose them to new ways of thinking, show them how they can do things better in a simpler way, save them money, make them heroes within their own company – that’s value.
I think that is a principle that goes across our company. What has been your top moment since joining?
Probably seeing the founder’s face when we secured a seven-figure PO last quarter - his smile was quite literally ear to ear but he was still so humble and focused on what it was going to take to really make that customer happy in the next phase of deployment.
Ah yes, I remember Roger’s face, too! And finally, let’s get to the core of what is most important at any startup: the snacks. What’s your favorite vArmour kitchen snack?
When I’m feeling particularly peckish, I discovered a chocolate bar that disguises itself as a “health food” because it has honey and peanut butter in it - but it’s a habit I need to break quickly or I won’t be much good at my trail running hobby. Or the beer, we seem to have an abundant supply – can we consider beer to be a snack? I think as I’m English, it’s OK.