10 questions for Bit9 CTO Harry Sverdlove

By , IDG News Service |  Software

I don't think it's specific to my market -- I think one of the biggest challenges for all CTOs is that there is so much hype and FUD about technology. One of the biggest challenges I find as a CTO is cutting through all that to find out what trends are real and which technologies really work.

Is there going to be some new cloud computing or smart device solution? There's so much marketing hype and sci-fi around figuring that out. Which parts are real and what can we do to take advantage and leverage the parts that are real?

It's a challenge, but it's one of the best aspects of being a CTO for me because I get to be true to the technology.

4. What is a good day at work like for you?

I would say specifically as the CTO of a security company there are two types of good days for me. We have great customer relationships, and the best day is one where I get a call from a CSO or CISO saying that we helped stop an attack on their network. It's almost hokey-inspirational, but a good day at work is when I can come in and talk to a C-level executive about how we helped protect their company.

The other best day is when I come in not too inundated with meetings, so I can sit down with the engineering team and talk about what we're doing. It's just me and the team and a blank white board that at the end of the day is anything but blank.

5. How would you characterize your management style?

I tend to manage at arm's length. I like to give the people who work with me the opportunity to shine, to come up with their own solutions, and then I see my role as helping them to stay the course. I like the team to work collaboratively, but I like them to work with clarity as well.

I set a goal post out in the future, for whatever the mission is that we're working on, and then my job is to keep them in the same game but focused on creativity.

I don't like to micromanage. I like the team to feel empowered enough to come back to me with their own estimations, and their own set of deliverables because I believe that goes back to fostering the same kind of atmosphere I talked about with Ron Nordin. You have to keep people inspired, but focused on a mission.

6. What strengths and qualities do you look for in job candidates?

There are three -- two of those are a little bit of mother and apple pie and the other one is a little different. The two characteristics I most look for are passion and creativity. I like to work with people who are passionate about what they do and who are also creative.

The third one you can look at the wrong way, but I like to work with people who are lazy. The best people I know don't like to do the same thing twice. The natural thing in engineering is to over-think. The smartest people I know don't do that. If they have to do something a second time, they try to find a way to do it better and they also tend to be the most productive.

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