May 31, 2012, 3:41 PM — Name: Harry Sverdlove
Time with company: 4 years
Education: Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering, MIT
Company headquarters: Waltham, Massachusetts
Countries of operation: U.S., U.K.
Number of employees total: About 120
Number of employees the CTO oversees: 3
About the company: Bit9 provides trust-based security software to detect and prevent sophisticated cyberthreats.
1. Where did you start your career and what experiences led you to the job you have today?
Originally, going way back, I started my career in computer science at the age of 12 when I spent two summers at Wesleyan University studying computer science. Through that experience, I made a number of contacts and actually had small software engagements. I've been a nerd as far back as my memory goes.
My professional career started at Lotus. It was in the heyday when 1-2-3 was the big thing, before IBM acquired Lotus.
I was at a number of different technology companies and ended up at NuMega Technologies, which specialized in developer-oriented, code analytic tools, and that's where my interest in computer security really started, especially outsider threats. All applications have flaws and vulnerabilities, and the idea that there are enemies out there actively looking to take advantage of those flaws both bothers and motivates me.
After that, I started my own consulting business and did a lot of work in the area of email and spam detection, before becoming chief scientist at SiteAdvisor, which analyzed the safety of websites across the Internet. It was acquired by McAfee and I spent two years at McAfee. While there I was able to see firsthand how reactive the security industry has become and how ineffective that can be against a determined attacker. Following McAfee, I came to Bit9 where I've focused on proactive approaches to cyberdefense.
So, I've been in the software engineering space for over two decades and the computer security space specifically for about 10 years.
2. Who was an influential boss for you and what lessons did they teach you about management and leadership?
The most influential boss for me was prior to joining NuMega. He was CEO of SQA, Ron Nordin, who, not coincidentally, is on the board of Bit9. Ron was CEO [of SQA] when we were a small company. I was employee number 17 and I think he was employee 15. That was before we were acquired by Rational.
He taught me to inspire employees while marching toward a very specific set of common goals. A lot of the way I manage today comes from that experience. You can have the best process in the world, but if you don't have the team members aligned, it's all for naught and the same is true for an overall company as well as its mission.
3. What are the biggest challenges facing CTOs today?