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“Identity theft can be devastating so it feels good joining the war against bad actors”

“Identity theft can be devastating so it feels good joining the war against bad actors”

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We speak to Ashley Diffey, Country Manager – Australia, New Zealand and Japan at Ping Identity, about the satisfying feeling of waging war on cybercriminals.

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?

Everyone has their own pre-conceived idea of what it would be like to lead a team but actually stepping into the role can be challenging and rewarding in ways you don’t expect. I’d clocked up experience in senior channel positions before scoring the country manager role for Australia, New Zealand and Japan at Ping in August 2019. The company was in the midst of an expansion drive when I joined and being part of that growth has been fantastic. It’s especially good to be working with technology that makes a positive contribution to people’s lives. Identity theft can be devastating for individuals and it feels good to be joining the war against bad actors.

What first made you think of a career in technology?

It wasn’t a lifelong ambition – far from it! I wasn’t a geek in high school and I didn’t tinker with technology. As a young man, I worked at an award-winning restaurant in the Milawa region and my dream was to move to Melbourne and open my own restaurant. Exposure to the cut and thrust of the capital city hospitality scene killed that plan quickly! I then spent a few years in customer service with Telstra and BUPA before I got into B2B selling and realized I’d found my niche. That realization sent me looking for a role I could get my teeth into and that’s when I got into tech. It’s such a dynamic, fast moving industry that offers so many opportunities.

What style of management philosophy do you employ in your current position?

I stepped into a team leader role at Bupa quite young and thus had the benefit of some really great management courses early in my career. They raised my self-awareness – of my behavior and how it impacts on my team – and helped me focus on motivating and coaching people, rather than supervising them. I’m big on that approach today. Reading also helps me home my skills. I enjoy books on leadership and try to apply some of the lessons.

What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?

Digital Transformation and customer experience are the big drivers for businesses at the moment. Securing mobile users and the cloud is a key piece of that. Techie types have been cognizant of the need for rigorous security controls for a long time but the average person is only now waking up to it. Probably because it’s started hitting people where it hurts – in the hip pocket. We saw an example of this in early 2020 when it emerged some Australians had had their identities stolen and their super accounts drained. Something like that hammers home the fact that identity theft is personal and we need to protect ourselves against it.

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?

Motorsports have always been my thing. A mate and I bought and rebuilt an old MX 5 a few years ago and we compete in the Australian Tarmac Rally Championships. They run four events a year where they close off a mountain road and you drive up and down as fast as you can. We started entering as a bit of fun, never expecting to win anything, but we’ve done really well with a very average car. A few times we’ve finished on the podium, beating off more professional teams with newish Porsches and support crews. Having grown up on the land, I’ve been behind the wheel since I was five years old, so perhaps that helps!

If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?

It may sound a bit cliched but I’m really quite happy with where I’m at in my life and career and how I got here. I’ve had an exceptional journey through a bunch of different roles and industries and I’ve learnt a lot in all I’ve done.

I’ve appreciated my blessings even more since taking some time out a few years back. I went through a bit of a burnout which taught me a lot about pride and humility and the importance of asking for help when you need it.

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?

The identity security space is hot right now, which is exciting for us! Passwordless access, Self Sovereign Identity, Data Governance and Consumer Data Rights…these are all things end-users are increasingly coming to expect. In essence, we’re seeing a major drive towards providing individuals with the ability to manage their data governance and digital self.

What are the region specific challenges when implementing new technologies in APAC?

We’re expanding our presence across the region so this question is very relevant to us! Managing cultural differences will undoubtedly be a challenge. Each country has its own business idiosyncrasies and you need to understand them, if you hope to build mind and market share.

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?

Stepping up to a country manager position last year meant stepping away from some of the operational challenges I would have taken on in the past. I’ve had to learn how to not do all the doing and push back on team members to find solutions. And obviously COVID has had a massive impact on everyone’s role throughout 2020. Working our way out of the lockdown modus operandi will be the big challenge for 2021. We all need to figure out what our new normal should be and make it work.

What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain a C-level position in your industry?

If you think you can do 60% of the job description, you should put your hand up! Throughout my career, I’ve approached new roles with the attitude that I’ll give myself six months to become proficient and then 18 months to over-achieve and figure out the next step. Moving up the ladder means extending yourself and taking on unfamiliar responsibilities so you need to trust that you’ll be able to learn the 40%.

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