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Ask a CTO: How industry evolution will impact cybersecurity solutions

August 28, 2023
clock 4 MIN READ

SEI Sphere’s talented team of experts works day and night to keep our clients secure. Recently, we had the chance to tap one of the key players behind the operation, SEI Sphere Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Mark Tierney, and peek into his world—from the evolution of the industry and CTO role to what keeps him up at night.  

How would you explain what you do to a 12-year-old? 

Mark: Probably over Instagram and using a lot of emojis! 

Simply put, the job is to manage and direct personnel in the use of technology infrastructure and technology resources to advance the company’s mission. Each CTO role can be different depending on the organization, but it generally involves designing information systems, operating and supporting information systems, and protecting information systems. 

If the 12-year-old had an especially short attention span: A CTO’s job is to attend meetings all day long!  


How do you think the role of the CTO has evolved over the years? 

Mark: Complexity has absolutely increased and, with that, the level of responsibility. Naturally, I think influence with the greater C-suite (CEO, CIO, CFO) has increased. But so, too, have the tools to address. I also think the growth in complexity has led to specialization: a CTO for development, for operations, for infrastructure, etc. 


What’s something all successful cybersecurity solutions have in common?

Mark: Scalability. The ability to adapt and handle growth.  


What’s one thing about the current tech landscape that keeps you up at night? 

Mark: There is only one answer to this question: artificial intelligence and machine learning—think ChatGPT and its rivals. What are the bad guys doing with it? What are our competitors doing with it? And how are we taking advantage of it?  


What’s an underrated or emerging technology that you’re excited about? 

Mark: Convergence and secure access service edge (SASE). Convergence meaning, the convergence of networking, network security, endpoint security, all delivered via one solution. With that, I see the potential for commoditization of advanced cyber toolsets and capabilities to the small office home office (SOHO) and small- and medium-sized business (SMB) crowds. 


How has the evolution of cybersecurity and the threat landscape affected how we should think about cybersecurity solutions? 

Mark: For one, that cyber solutions cannot be taken for granted. Effective cyber solutions are now table stakes. And they are not fire-and-forget weapons—they require constant attention.

More and more organizations have to pay closer attention to how governments are reacting and adjusting—whether that is through new regulations, new mandates, or, in the case of adversaries, how our cyber solutions can protect against broader, directed attacks that are government-sponsored.


What’s one thing business leaders often misunderstand? 

Mark: The return on investment (ROI) on information security investments. To be fair to business leaders, this is a very difficult thing to quantify. It requires putting a value on reputation, intellectual property, and many other business assets that don’t have clear and easily calculated worth. 


How do you measure success as a CTO? 

Mark: There are many measures of success. I will highlight some critical ones: Client satisfaction, both internal and external; growth of the company; and growth of your team, both physically (quantity) and professionally (quality). 


Is there a difference in strategy when you’re a CTO for a company protecting its employees versus a CTO for a company that provides a service to protect its clients? 

Mark: On balance, I don’t think so. I believe you have to protect your clients and their employees, infrastructure, and assets as if they were your own. 
That said, each client may have a different risk profile; each client may be willing to adjust risks in certain areas that require a tailoring of security to fit the client risk profile—and that is OK. We have to be responsive to our clients’ needs, mission, and risk profile, and willing to adapt our solutions to match those requirements.


Mark Tierney is one of many great minds working to optimize, secure, and support the evolving technology needs of our clients. Reach out to learn more about how SEI Sphere can be an extension of your team for cybersecurity, network operations, and cloud solutions.  

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