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Get To Know: Sylvain Lejeune, WatchGuard Technologies

Get To Know: Sylvain Lejeune, WatchGuard Technologies

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On the lighter side of things, we ask Sylvain Lejeune, Vice President Sales Asia Pacific and Japan, WatchGuard Technologies, about what makes him tick.

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?

My top sales guys have never left me; in fact, some of them have moved with me when I’ve moved. The fact that they stick around and don’t go across to a competitor tells me I’m doing something right in the way I lead them. To me, that’s much more memorable than something like a big contract win because it’s about us achieving success as a team.

What first made you think of a career in technology?

It happened by chance. I got my start back in 1995 after I’d finished university, at a time when technology wasn’t so prevalent in all aspects of life in the way it is now. National service was mandatory for young men in my home country of France and one of the ways it was possible to meet the requirements was by helping to foster the export of French products. My placement was with a small company selling IT storage technology in London. After a very good year there, an opportunity came up to work with Ericsson in Sweden and off I went. Twenty-five years later, I’m still selling technology and very pleased I wandered down that path!

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

There are many ways to be successful; some you might not have thought of yourself. That’s why I believe in hiring clever, trustworthy people and empowering them to do things their way. Recent events have demonstrated the merit of my approach – micro-managing a geographically dispersed team would be challenging at the best of times and impossible during a pandemic!

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

Most people have clocked the fact that remote working is now a very big thing – and a thing that won’t be going away any time soon. As business leaders realize this is what the new normal looks like, they’re seeking out solutions to secure those remote workforces, to prevent their organizations joining the rapidly growing list of cyber statistics. The other thing I’ve noted recently is a drawing in of the corporate purse strings. It’s no secret that we’re facing very recessionary times. Companies are looking to preserve cash and reduce their IT spend, wherever feasible. To be successful, vendors will need to align their offering with this imperative, by offering pay-as-you-go options that obviate the requirement for heavy capital investment.

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

Wherever I’ve lived in the world, swimming and long walks have always done it for me. Here in Singapore, there’s a lovely park, full of 100-year-old banyan trees, very near to my place. I’m up early every morning and out on the paths for at least 45 minutes, getting the adrenalin going and reconnecting with nature. Being able to keep on doing that helped me stay sane during the 2020 COVID lockdowns.

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

My old boss headhunted me into the cybersecurity space in 2013. Prior to that, I worked in telecoms for many years – possibly a few more than I should have. If it were possible to wind the clock back, I’d probably make that transition a little sooner.

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

There are two that come to mind. Identity theft is becoming a huge concern for individuals and businesses. Rightly so, with hacking and data breaches on the rise over the past year. It’s sparked a great deal of interest in multi-factor authentication solutions because they represent an effective way to reduce the risk of compromise or attack. Many businesses are also reaching the conclusion that they don’t have the inhouse resources they need to manage cybersecurity properly. As a result, managed security services are enjoying a moment in the sun.

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

Across the region, different cultures have very different appetites for innovation and risk. For example, Singapore and Japan are both developed countries, with highly advanced economies, yet companies there are far more conservative than those in The Philippines or Malaysia. When you launch a new technology, they want to see references and know that it’s working elsewhere in the world. For businesses in other APAC territories, that’s far less of an issue.

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?

Having to manage and lead my team digitally has been the most significant change I’ve had to deal with in many years. In common with a lot of people, I’ve found remote working a challenge.

Pre-COVID, being regionally based meant traveling around the region, connecting with colleagues and customers. It’s the conversations you have outside the boardroom that give you a real feel for what’s happening on the ground and any concerns people may have. Trying to gauge the vibe via digital channels is more complicated. Having said that, I see us getting much better at that stuff over the next year, bedding down some of our practices and settling into an optimal remote working pattern. Even with the possible emergence of a vaccination program in the near future – here’s hoping! – things are likely to continue as they are for at least the next six months.

I can’t see myself getting down to Australia or New Zealand or even over the border to see my team in Malaysia before Easter 2021. Long-term, we’re likely to end up with a hybrid workplace model so it’s worth investing time and resources to ensure we get it right.

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

Work very hard, develop your network of contacts and help others whenever you have an opportunity to do so. I’m a big believer in karma. If you’re constantly meeting new people, making connections and giving, without expecting to get anything back in the short-term, eventually it will come back and good things will happen.

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