IT Life: Keeping The Trust

Jonathan Martin from ThreatStream tells us about cybersecurity, learning from your mistakes, and the cello

Tell us about your current role, how long have you been in IT and what are your areas of expertise?

I started in IT pretty much straight from leaving school – I did a Maths degree, spent my 3rd year on a placement at ICI then worked for the NHS and British Airways in IT. I’m now the EMEA Operations Director for ThreatStream, a Threat Intelligence Management Platform company. My areas of expertise? I know plenty of people who know much more than I do about everything – so I never consider myself an expert at anything. But I think I’m quite good at being able to win an argument from an apparent position of weakness.

What motivates you right now?

Being involved in another start-up is an incredible experience and certainly motivates me to get going every day. Working with a great team of individuals, all working towards the same goal is very exciting. It doesn’t happen very often in your working life and you have to embrace it when it does. We managed to build a hugely successful company at ArcSight and the hope is we can do it all again at ThreatStream.

What has been your favourite project so far?

JMartin HeadShotAfter the Lockerbie disaster in 1988, the Government decided British Airways had to implement a baggage tracking system in a matter of weeks. Effectively the airline had to know where every bag was at all times after check-in. I hadn’t been working for the airline for very long and was responsible for a small part of the system. A bit like a start-up, we were a small group of people who were given a very short timescale to implement a large, complex multi-faceted system – and we went live on schedule on Friday 13th April! Someone had a sense of humour obviously. But it’s why you still have a barcode on your bag tag to this day.

What technologies were you involved with ten years ago?

I was lucky enough to be involved with ArcSight from the early days in Europe. SIEM technology was in its infancy and there was a lot of evangelising to be done at that time. But we had a great product – and a great team – and we managed to compete against and frequently beat the likes of Cisco, IBM & RSA and create a hugely successful company that HP bought in 2010.

What do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?

If I knew what was going to happen in the next 10 years, I certainly wouldn’t be telling anyone! The next 10 weeks is hard enough…

Who is your tech hero and who is your tech villain?

My tech hero is a lady called Pauline Brand (from Dyadic Systems, our IBM VAR) who I worked with whilst at BA. She taught me the most important message of my working career – that if someone doesn’t understand what you’re explaining to them then its your fault not theirs. Learn to explain technology in simple terms that the audience you are talking to will understand. Don’t blind people with science and don’t show off – and most importantly know when to stop talking.

Villain? Oh, I couldn’t ever reveal that!

What’s your favourite technology ever made? Which do you use most?

It would probably have to be something that I use every day and can’t be without – so my iPhone fits that bill. But the apps on a smartphone are actually what we all use day in day out – so I’d have to single out TweetDeck, CricInfo and the BBC Radio iPlayer apps as ones that get the most use. The ability to listen to BBC Radio when holed up in a hotel room in some far-flung country is one of life’s great indulgences.

What’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?

start ups businessThe rate of change of technology – and security in particular – must be frightening for decision makers in organisations. The problem of keeping up with something that is so important to their companies but changes constantly must be mind-bogglingly difficult. Having worked for a large corporate early in my career, I feel its best solved by selecting a small group of trusted partners (like ThreatStream) and working closely with them. Build and maintain relationships and you’ll be a lot closer to solving those problems faster.

Apart from your own, which company do you admire the most and why?

Apple – to be able to maintain the level of technical excellence they have achieved over such a long period with very few bad products is remarkable – added to that is the lure of the Apple brand. They are an example all tech companies could learn from.

To Cloud or not to Cloud?

No contest – Cloud-based solutions are the way forward. But of course, Cloud is nothing new, just a spin on an old idea. In 2000 I was working for a hosted email company (Critical Path) – email in the Cloud. In fact, can you imagine email provided any other way? We’ve all used email this way for a very long time, it’s just that we didn’t call it Cloud.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

I wanted to be a classical musician. I started playing the Cello when I was 8 and was seriously considering it as a career – until one day when I was about 18 I worked out that you had to work weekends and got paid very badly. Suddenly it didn’t seem quite so attractive. I mean, how would I ever get to see my beloved Everton play again???

Jonathan Martin is EMEA Operations Director for ThreatStream

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