On the lighter side of things, we ask Doros Hadjizenonos, Regional Sales Director at Fortinet in South Africa, what makes him tick…
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
Starting my own IT security distribution company from scratch. My company represented many of the top security vendors and I eventually sold it to one of the largest security distributors of that time. It gave me a great sense of achievement to grow a business to the point where it was respected and valued by the local security community.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
As a kid I used to help my dad at his work to fix electrical appliances (TVs, video machines, tape recorders and radios). It’s funny to think that some people may not recognise these devices anymore. I was always fascinated how the electrical components worked together. This got me to pursue a degree in electrical engineering during the early stages of the Internet. I did my masters on Asynchronous Transfer Mode networks and this ultimately got me interested in the world of the Internet which landed me my first job as an IT security engineer. The IT Security industry evolves at a rapid pace in order to keep up-to-date with the latest attack methods and I think this is the reason it has kept me excited to remain in the same field for almost 20 years.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
I believe in an open-door management philosophy where I encourage team work, promote individual expression and focusing the team on the objectives of the company. I believe that enabling employees to freely discuss concerns or suggestions with their management fosters a cohesive team culture and results in better performance of the individuals.
What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?
I think there is a lot of talk around Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. We are seeing these technologies built into our everyday lives. As a security vendor, we are incorporating these types of technologies into our solutions to help protect our customers against the advanced and complex attack methods used in today’s cyberwarfare.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
I am training for the 947 Cycle Challenge and I find that exercise helps me cope with the stresses of life. When I am not training, I like spending time with family and friends to create some sort of balance between work and play. I believe it is important to take a break every now and then to recharge the batteries and come back with a fresh mind.
If you could go back and change one career decision what would it be?
That’s a difficult question because I am happy where I am today. I do believe the decisions I have made in my career has brought me to my current role. I will however say that I did enjoy owning my own business and I should have looked at doing that earlier on in my career to capitalise on the Internet boom. My vision is to one day be able to invest in a technology company that I can be involved in the background during my retirement period and beyond.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
With many devices connecting to the Internet (including mobile devices, TVs, fridges, cars and cameras) I am seeing large investment on developing security solutions for these types of connected devices. In addition, as organisations move their data to cloud platforms so does the spend move to security technologies that enable cloud adoption without compromising security posture.
What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Africa?
Each region has its own challenges, in some countries in Africa they are behind the technology curve and require a huge amount of re-architecture and investment to deploy the latest technology. Once the new technology is implemented the harder part is to ensure it is maintained and monitored by certified individuals and this is an area where I feel we are lacking in the entire African continent. The skill shortage is probably our biggest challenge in my industry.
What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?
Since I have only been in my current job role for almost four months, I can’t comment on the last 12 months, but I do see my role changing. In tough economic times we are forced to get creative to find new business. We need to find new markets to sell our product to and this requires out of the box thinking and getting the team to do tasks that may be out of their comfort zone.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?
In the security industry I would say that a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) would be the C-level position to aspire to. The best advice I can give for someone that wants to become a CISO is to ensure that you have a solid educational background with knowledge in both technology and business. An aspiring CISO should come out of an enterprise information security role with both technical experience, managerial experience and good communication skills. I would highly recommend that this person looks at getting some industry recognised information security certifications such as Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).