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DigiCert CTO on digital acceleration, customer requirements and being future-focused

DigiCert CTO on digital acceleration, customer requirements and being future-focused

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On the lighter side of things we ask Jason Sabin, Chief Technology Officer at DigiCert, about what makes him tick.

Jason Sabin, Chief Technology Officer at DigiCert

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?

Without a doubt, my relationship with my wife is the single most important achievement in my life. Going through life with an amazing partner, adventurer and brilliant individual brings me great happiness and a love of life.

Career-wise, producing a global product set that helps customers accelerate and produce their own advancements in innovation and technology is very exciting to me. I love the ability to use cryptography and PKI to advance technology and change the way we live life.

What first made you think of a career in technology?

When I was in the 5th grade, the school I attended brought in a new computer lab with Apple IIe computers, and I was over-the-moon excited about the lab. Around this same time, the real story was my dad had purchased me an Atari 130xe, and one day I popped out the little cartridge and found a READY prompt. I asked my dad what it did and he told me it would do whatever I wanted it to do. The next day he gave me a computer programming book, and from that point on, I always knew I wanted to be involved with computers.

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

It depends on the individual. Some need coaching and a lot of guidance. Others have earned my trust, and I just help guide strategy and vision. I think I developed this philosophy very early in my career through my own work experiences. In my first R&D job, I just wanted to work on cool technology. Everyone else around me had a lot more experience, but I started by asking to take the worst jobs, and I just put my head down and did my very best. Over time, I earned my manager’s trust and they gave me increasingly more challenging and interesting technical challenges to solve. I always appreciated this concept of earned-trust from my managers, and I’m not interested in micro-managing, so my methodology is a mixture of coaching and trust enablement.

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

There has been an acceleration of Digital Transformation, brought on by the pandemic and remote working requirements. These need to be secured with authenticated network access for users and devices including encryption and data/device integrity. PKI is the proven technology to deliver it at scale. I’m seeing rapid growth not only in the enterprise and IT areas but in using PKI to solve new use cases and security challenges. Customers need a flexible deployment, high availability, reliability, managed in their private or public cloud or for government in-country requirements. We’ve reimagined PKI, and built a modern, container-based architecture that is built to be the PKI service for today’s and tomorrow’s security challenges.

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

I’m a weird mix of a nerd. I like a lot of things like snowboarding, mountain biking and hiking, and find these activities away from the office relaxing. The opposite side of me loves comic conventions, board games, vintage dancing and sci-fi or fantasy movies. I grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons and still enjoy board games, so this is where my other, more nerdy side shines through and allows me to relax.

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

This is a hard one for me because I’m very future-focused. Where I am today is based on the challenges and stumbling blocks that I’ve had to cross. I have to say I don’t know if there’s anything that I would change because doing so would change the trajectory of where I am today. For me, it’s the history of bad choices and decisions, as well as the great ones that make me who I am today.

What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in North America?

For us at DigiCert, we operate at a global level. Most of our technologies and infrastructure are built with a global scale in mind, but the way we build technologies is region-specific. For example, in the EU there’s a lot of focus on privacy so we want to maintain our customer’s data in their specific region if it’s country-specific or region. At DigiCert, we have a global focus, but you need to have uptime, availability, and low latency and be able to segment out data by region or country.

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?

I took on the CTO role earlier this year. My background has been primarily R&D and engineering-focused, but a few years ago I was asked to be the CSO, which included the security operations aspects within the company. This grew into a CIO role focusing on IT operations and internal company focus. These roles outside of engineering broadened my horizons and helped me understand a whole different side of the business. Over the next 12 months, I plan to incorporate all I’ve learned as CSO and CIO and include those aspects into my customer-focused CTO role.

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

Growing up, I saw myself as a builder and a breaker, and that same mindset applies to those aspiring to obtain a C-level position. As a kid, I loved to open up electronic pieces to see how things worked, then try and rebuild. You need to look at how you can accelerate and do things differently. Sometimes you just need to figure out how to tear apart problems and break them down into smaller components and be a problem solver. Solving problems, whether people and process-oriented or reworking code, places you in the best position to be successful.

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