In this edition of ARN's 'One on One' interview series, we speak to Mark Sinclair, who started his career as an electronic engineer before his passion for numbers saw him dive into the 'dark side' of managing sales teams. After moving to Oracle seeking a 'big company sales' experience, Sinclair realised his passion remained in cyber security, eventually shaping him into his current role as A/NZ regional director for WatchGuard Technologies.
What was your first job?
My first job after graduating from the University of Sydney was with a division of German electronics company Siemens. They were designing and manufacturing radios for soldiers in the Australian Army. I started out with them as an electronic engineer on the factory floor, designing tests for newly manufactured circuit boards.
I quickly moved into a sales engineer role where I discovered I had a talent for sales. I found that working with customers was a lot more challenging and rewarding than working with transistors.
How did you get started in the IT industry and progress to where you are today?
My first real gig in the IT industry was with Trend Micro when I joined them as their sales engineering and services director in 2004. After about seven years I was politely told that my talents for numbers and analytics would be much better applied to managing sales teams. I was ushered off to the dark side where I managed multiple sales teams over a period of four years. I quickly realised that sales management was quite a skill and something that I really enjoyed.
I then moved to Oracle seeking the 'big company' sales management experience. Oracle was a truly massive company with very mature and sometimes complex sales processes. I learned a lot about technology sales in a very short time and had responsibility for a large sales division. After several great years at Oracle, I realised I missed the cyber security field. This is when I got the tap on the shoulder and asked if I would like to interview for the WatchGuard regional director role. I jumped at the chance.
I have changed a lot of things at WatchGuard A/NZ over the past few years. We now have new distributors, a new sales team structure and a consistency in our partner engagement. We have also been the first country outside the US to launch WatchGuard's new zero-upfront subscription purchasing model for our firewall range.
What has been your biggest business mistake, and the lessons you've learnt from that experience?
My biggest mistake was never putting my hand up and saying I needed help and advice, especially during my early years in management. I thought I knew it all and anything I didn't know, I would work out myself. Over time I discovered that learning through trial and error was not the most efficient way of learning. My biggest regret was never getting a mentor to help me fast-track my business growth.
These days my philosophy has changed. I still like to try new things, and sometimes they fail, but I now make sure I have people around me where I can bounce ideas off. I am a big believer of not hiring in your own image, so I try and surround myself with people with different experiences and views.
What are some of your plans for WatchGuard in the coming months?
WatchGuard recently acquired Panda Security, a European endpoint protection platform vendor. My plans for the next few months will be focused on developing a strategy to bring the Panda EPP/EDR solution, Adaptive Defense 360, to the A/NZ market. Endpoint protection has never been more important, with the recent increase in businesses with work-from-home staff. It was a very timely acquisition for us and one that I expect will be quickly embraced by our partner community.
On the topic of work from home, we are seeing a big increase in demand of VPNs, multi-factor authentication (MFA) and DNS-based phishing protection. All of these technologies, along with endpoint protection, form the foundation of securing the remote workforce. Partners that are offering technology and services to support this are destined to thrive in the mid-term, so I plan to do plenty of partner education on the opportunities related to this.
Also, our MFA product, AuthPoint, has seen massive growth over recent times, so I will be looking at how we can get that in the hands of more of our partners. MFA technology is especially hot right now. Many MSPs are baking MFA into their standard managed service offering, recognising that it is a critical component to their security services.
Some are even going to the extent of having their clients sign waivers if they choose not to adopt MFA. We have launched our pay-as-you-go monthly subscription service for our AuthPoint service to help partners roll it out to more customers in this challenging climate.
What are some of your biggest ambitions - personally and professionally?
Personally, I have a bit of a passion for finance and established my own mortgage broking/asset finance business some years back. I would love to see this grow to a point where it becomes a (good) problem for me. I am also a massive fan of Australian red wines so I have the ultimate goal of buying a small vineyard one day.
My professional ambitions are to continue the rapid growth we have seen with WatchGuard, despite it being a 20 plus year old security vendor. I have really shaken things up at WatchGuard A/NZ and I would like to continue this by contributing further to the ongoing development of the cyber security industry in Australia and New Zealand.
What has been the best piece of advice you've ever received?
The best piece of advice I have ever received was "bite off more than you can chew, but then chew like crazy."
It is about being bold, having a go. Some things will work, others won't, but you will never die wondering. We need to evolve by doing more of this in these crazy times.