Did you enjoy school?
I did, and I did well, though I wasn’t very attentive at times. A group of us would hang out on the building steps and work out how to play and sing popular songs. We’re talking the original days of Queen and Pat Benatar, mind you. I spent a lot of time in bands and casual musical collaborations and still do.
What qualifications do you have?
I have an undergraduate degree in Linguistics, and in technology I have been self-taught – along with learning from many, many colleagues. I’ve often thought the linguistics came in handy as I began doing protocol design in the standards world.
Has your career path been a smooth transition, a rocky road or a combination of both?
I’d say it’s been a series of relatively smooth transitions on a winding road. From documentation editor to doc tools specialist to product manager to technology director to industry analyst, all of which led me to my current role as CTO. And I’ve hopped technologies a lot, but a common theme in all the solution-building has been enabling people to exercise control over the data they generate. Working in security, identity, and privacy for the last 20-plus years has been a natural fit.
What is the best career advice you can give to others?
If you come across one of those ideas that feels Very Important and it’s going to take everything you’ve got to work on it, find a way to do it. You’ll regret it if you don’t. Fight to get the knowledge and resources you need. If you’re calling your friends about it and asking, “Am I crazy?” and they reassure you you’re not, it’s one of those. I’ve worked on three standards that felt this important, XML, SAML, and UMA.
If you had to pick one mentor, that had the biggest influence on you, who would it be?
It would have to be my first manager, Susan Hunziker at DEC, who asked me to step up and try a lot of new things, and who was an exemplar of excellence in the field. We’re still in touch to this day.
From where do you draw inspiration?
You might also like
Ecosystems in nature and in software systems.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced to date?
Probably not knowing when to stop editing things! It’s my worst habit. I will massage slide decks and documents – and these answers – to within an inch of their lives. Not that this makes what I write that much better on balance.
What qualities do you feel makes a good leader?
Reflect back positive visions of people’s best selves. Encourage answers to come from others. Embrace transparency. Nurture collaboration at the right times. If you can do all that, and if everyone is clear on the mission, you’ll all have something amazing going.
From a work viewpoint, what has 2020 been like for you?
2020 was a time of change and growth. I took on a new role as ForgeRock’s CTO, set about working on some new strategic directions, started to build a new team, and forged many new relationships as our company has grown by leaps and bounds. All over a digital connection, of course.
What would you say are the biggest tech-based challenges we face today?
We have some massive security and privacy challenges facing us, and it’s not just because the business incentives — the non-technical bits — are often confused. A lot of data genies have escaped a lot of bottles. My friend John Kindervag, known as Mr. Zero Trust, observes that attack surfaces are infinite, so we’d best focus on the finite “protect surfaces.” I love this formulation. It can drive not only Zero Trust where services and applications — and things — can protect themselves dynamically, but also a more positive vision of privacy. In this vision, people aren’t just passive “data subjects” waiting for others to make decisions about them; they can also protect themselves dynamically. At ForgeRock we think of this as democratising data control. It’s the future of not just security, but also consent and trusted digital relationships.
Give us a fact about you that most other people wouldn’t know.
I spent most of my childhood in Honolulu and found it an idyllic place to grow up. Before setting off to Boston for university, I managed to spend a gap year in Hawaii playing in clubs in my band. That was hard work at times, but my memories have made it seem pretty idyllic too!