RSA Security's ANZ country manager Mark Pullen shows Amanda Sachtleben his passport full of New Zealand immigration stamps, and talks about the biggest emerging threats.
How did you start out in the IT industry?
I grew up in Christchurch and went to Canterbury University. I went through a graduate programme into Xerox and my boss there moved to an IT company. He said I should come and work in IT. That was about 20 years ago. At Xerox I was in sales and they had a few IT products. The IT company I went to was Centron.
How did you progress to where you are now?
I went and worked for Essentially Software. They were opening up a Sydney branch so I went over there to open up the branch there from scratch 14 years ago, and I’ve been in Sydney ever since. I moved from the reseller space to the vendor space with Network Associates, so that was my entry into security. I was there for a couple of years, then went to E-Sign, a Verisign affiliate, which RSA floated in 1998. I’ve been at RSA for six years.
What roles have you held at RSA?
Predominantly sales roles. When I started at RSA there were five people in Australia, now there are 100. They don’t all work for me of course, only 18 of them do. My first role was looking after the southern territories and New Zealand has always been one I’ve looked after. I went into business development working with people like NZ Post, ECN and Datacom and the government on how else we can use our products. Then I moved into the country manager role in July.
How do you use your sales experience in your current role?
It’s understanding how our products fit with our customers and guiding our sales team on how that all works. It’s more a guiding role than a direct management role. The people in our industry are mature enough that they don’t need a manager; they almost need a coach rather than a boss. That’s typically how I work with my team.
What have been your priorities for the channel since you started?
We have a basic philosophy of what we’re going to sell, who we’re going to sell to and who we sell through. The channel is a critical part. I’m trying to focus on how we can become more efficient in training our channel, moving more to phone- and web-based training, and getting the skill level up among our partners. It’s also focusing on our renewal business because we’ve got a very large renewal base, and that requires a lot of effort by our partners to maintain.
Which security threats do you see becoming the biggest in coming years?
I think the whole industry is just not ready for the emerging threats, and that’s not scaremongering. The enterprise is ready to look at security but I don’t think a lot of people understand what the threat factors are.
Police are saying they’re just swamped with fraud and I think we’ll be reading in the papers in a couple of years that it’s not just banks affected, it’s every industry. It will be organised crime — there’s more money laundering than drugs now. People are realising they can do that from the comfort of their own lounge, and once the criminals become more savvy there’ll be a problem. Their homes are not downtown Auckland, they’re downtown Latvia or Russia and the law just doesn’t extend that far.
What are some of the uniquely New Zealand issues you deal with at RSA?
Money. When I started at RSA, one of our tokens cost $25,000, and a lot of it was to do with the exchange rate. We’ve developed a lot of things here as a result. We started the RSA info pack, which is less than $5000, New Zealand retail. That was so successful here it was adopted worldwide. Kiwis want to know how stuff works, so we have to give them a lot more information to help them make decisions. It’s the innovation game here. We’ve pushed a lot of things here that have impacted the world.
What changes do you think will result from the acquisition of RSA by EMC?
They employ 25,000 people, we employ 1500, so to become the security division of EMC will have enormous benefits. People aren’t attacking the perimeter anymore, they’re attacking the data, so if you’re working with an information infrastructure company like EMC, you can help secure the information in the infrastructure that it leaves. It’s also a much bigger footprint.
As RSA is Australia-based, you must make a lot of visits here?
I’ve been here 18 times in the last 12 months.
Do you enjoy the travel side of it?
No. It’s being away from the family that’s frustrating, but from New Zealand you can get on a plane at six and be here at nine. It’s like a day trip.
What do you do outside of work?
I’ve got a young family and that can take up all my time. I love rugby and I enjoy investing.