In our running series, Information Age speaks to Nico Fischbach, CTO of Forcepoint, about why driving innovation requires more than technical ability.
Forcepoint is a cybersecurity firm who specialise in understanding people’s intent as they interact with critical data. Based in Austin, Texas, they support more than 20,000 organisations.
Internal and external
Many CTOs fulfil different roles in their organisation. Some are product-focused, while others are more business-orientated. According to Fischbach, for him, it’s a bit of both. As a CTO of a large organisation like this, his role does not merely revolve around technology, adding that it’s just as much about business enablement.
He spends roughly half of his time working with the product development teams and the other half in the field helping customers.
He explained: “In the morning I could have a very technical conversation with my engineering staff, and in the afternoon I could be doing a board level presentation explaining why a certain aspect of security is important in protecting a client’s core assets. With this in mind, I think it is important for a CTO to be able to use c-level and board level language to help customers with their business problems.”
“If you are not a mix of an internal and external CTO, I think you are really missing out. At the end of the day, we are here to solve customer problems and help them move their business forward.”
Drawing the roadmap
When it comes to succeeding as a CTO, for Fischbach, you must counteract disruption with innovation.
He said: “It’s a tough market, there is a lot of start-ups and disrupters popping up who are addressing quite niche problems. At the same time, the bad guys, the criminals, certain nation-states are adapting very fast, adopting new tactics and new ways of causing damage, so you really need to keep up with what is happening out there and know how to respond.”
“This means being able to provide customers with a roadmap for change.”
“With this in mind, I think it is really important to understand the customers business. We work with a diverse range of organisations across the world, so I need to grasp a lot of different verticals, the level of maturity, some verticals are more important in different areas.”
Eye for talent
Fischbach is also tasked with driving transformation within Forcepoint and helps execute their long-term strategy. This leads to one of Fischbach’s other core responsibilities: recruitment.
The digital skills crisis has been well documented and is a persistent problem that both the public and private sector are looking to address.
Overcoming this hurdle is one of the main employer challenges facing businesses in different industries, and for CTOs looking to build out their teams.
“We are all fighting for the same type of talent, be it data scientists that understand cloud technologies and other emerging areas.”
“In reality, the market for cyber security talent is very dry – I think one challenge I really have is finding top talent that can drive transformation.”
For Fischbach, this is why passion is paramount, he added: “We need to not only sell to customers, we need to be able to stir up potential staff and convince them to come and work with us.”
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