MarTech Series: Interview with Robert Humphrey, CMO at SecureAuth
Author: Sudipto Ghosh
“Putting identity at the center of a consumer or employee journey is critical from both a business and security perspective.”
Tell us about your role and journey into technology. What inspired you to start at SecureAuth?
I began my career in Technology Sales, many years ago, selling mainframe computers to large enterprises. Throughout the course of my career, participating on the Sales and Marketing side of the business, I’ve witnessed most of the major technology shifts. With each major shift, there have been key technologies that either enabled the shift or competed with the shift. I’ve found identity plays a critical role as the glue which connects current systems and new technologies alike.
With the cloud massively changing the way we build and consume software, companies of all sizes are faced with how best to leverage new approaches while maintaining differentiated capabilities from older technologies. Putting identity at the center of a consumer or employee journey is critical from both a business and a security perspective. If done right, identity can minimize an organization’s challenges while migrating to new technologies. Well-thought-out identity strategies can mask the underlying technologies, ultimately providing frictionless access for an organization’s end users.
Working in both the business applications space and the security space, I was inspired by SecureAuth’s strategy to offer solutions that solve both the security and business sides of the house. That’s unique in a market where there is generally a hardline difference between selling to business and selling to security.
What’s so different about being a CMO of an Identity Security platform compared to modern SaaS, and IT companies?
Being an identity security platform doesn’t mean that we’re not a modern SaaS and IT company: we are all of those things. But with that comes challenges: we have a broader audience to market and sell to. Traditionally a company’s go-to-market strategy is driven by a clearly identified buyer either in business, IT or security. Our challenge is a bit more complex as all three typically have a say in the selection of an identity system. This adds degrees of complexity, not only to messaging and positioning but also to targeting and engagement. MarTech is actually one of the big ways we’re able to deal in this complex world, where we are talking to, targeting and engaging with lots of different audiences. The latter would be virtually impossible without well-thought-out MarTech infrastructure and processes.
How do you keep up with the highly disruptive security industry?
If you’re staying up with the security industry, you’re too late. We listen to our customers and prospects and try to think like a bad guy! While, of course, we follow key trends in security solutions, we are far more interested in following new approaches to malware, breaches, and hacking. Our innovation labs team is made up of some of the most advanced white-hat researchers who closely monitor the “bad actor” communities to get into the minds and techniques of the adversary.
This adversarial-aware approach to research keeps us on the leading edge of prevention and allows us to develop intelligent approaches to breach prevention. For example, we all know hackers are trying to steal our passwords. So rather than focus on identity theft, we focus on eliminating passwords. Bad guys can’t steal what you don’t have!
What does your product roadmap for 2019/2020 look like?
One common thread in our product roadmap is Machine Learning and AI. Machine learning is helping us identify the bad guys and their behavior. Applying Artificial Intelligence in the establishment of prevention against that is a key part of everything in our roadmap.
What are your predictions and observations on the passwordless enterprise?
A prediction – passwordless is inevitable. An observation – it’s hard to do it. Frankly, the harder part of eliminating passwords is less around the technology to do it. Even today, passwords are often interjected not because they’re needed (and in some cases, they’re not even used) but because of the user’s comfort level around it. Many different authentication techniques are far more secure than the password. So why put the password in? Usually, this is because the user doesn’t necessarily trust the technology behind it. I predict that it will probably take longer for passwords to go away than anybody expects – not because of the technology associated with it, but because of the social aspects of it: people’s comfort level and our conditioning to authenticate our identities via passwords.
What’s your ideal customer profile?
Our ideal customer profile is a large, somewhat complex enterprise characterized by relatively complex infrastructure. Big retailers, financial institutions, hospitality, transportation, energy, infrastructure, and governments: they all have either large quantities of employees/contractors, or large quantities of end consumers, or citizens accessing their systems. Target markets for us are any company that manages millions of identities.
What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?
I’m keeping an eye on anything around data and analytics, or an interesting application of AI on data and analytics. Because at the end of the day, that’s what the identity world is all about: innovation around using AI against data.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Business Leader?
It’s coming really fast. We’re not necessarily watching the security companies applying AI. We’re actually looking into different markets and different industries. How are they using AI? You’re going to learn from observing how other industries apply AI to solve their problems. I would argue that an AI-centric world has become a data-centric world and that AI is used to mine and learn from it.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
1. Uber, 2. Google Maps. In that order. Seriously
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
Before you start, identify when you’re going to be done. Don’t start a meeting to try and fill up an hour or fill up some time. Instead, ask ”How do we know when we’re done?” I got that productivity hack from a founder of a company I worked for many years ago. He would walk into a room and someone would stand up to start the meeting and he’d say “Wait–I can tell that the meeting has started because you’re talking. How will we know when this meeting is done?” Suddenly, all of our meetings became shorter and we got things done faster.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve ever received is to hire people that you could see yourself working for one day. I’m always thinking about hiring people that are better than me and, from a leadership perspective, hiring people that I can see myself working for one day. It’s happened twice for me, and I’ve ended up working for them twice. It works.
Thank you, Robert! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
This article originally appeared on MarTech Series