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Ken Xie on The role of Pillar

Fortinet (NASDAQ: FTNT) is a worldwide provider of network security appliances and a market leader in unified threat management (UTM). Our products and subscription services provide broad, integrated and high-performance protection against dynamic security threats while simplifying the IT security infrastructure. Our customers include enterprises, service providers and government entities worldwide, including the majority of the 2012 Fortune Global 100. Fortinet's flagship FortiGate product delivers ASIC-accelerated performance and integrates multiple layers of security designed to help protect against application and network threats. Fortinet is headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif., with offices around the world.

Rake Narang: Which multiple hats does a today’s Pillar have to wear? What best practices can you share with tech Pillar’s who are early in their career?

Ken Xie: It’s most important for Pillars to begin with a solid business model, which can help immeasurably during difficult economic conditions. When you have money, people are more willing to give you money. But when you need the money desperately, people look at you as a troubled company. A cash cushion will give a Pillar the freedom to think about the company’s long-term goal. Once a Pillar is thinking long term, they can avoid the pitfalls that come with some short term decisions, such as laying people off, which could ultimately harm long-term goals. A Pillar should also be prepared to invest in their product and not take shortcuts. I am a firm believer in R & D spending. In terms of our global employee footprint segmented by function, 31 percent was allocated to R & D.

About Ken Xie

Rake Narang: What are three tips for building a great team?

Ken Xie: Pillars today must invest in their employees, as they are the engines that drive the growth of the company. I advocate being more open and more trusting of your employees. Be visible to them, give them the authority to make decisions and don’t micromanage. Help to guide them into the career that they envision and foster employee initiatives that have a positive impact on their community. This kind of model fosters teamwork, and to be successful, you have to work together, because no matter how much you may want to, you can’t do everything yourself.

Rake Narang: What are the challenges of managing a global business?

Ken Xie: Displacement of an entrenched incumbent is always a challenge. But, this is also one of our best opportunities due to the fact that when compared to many of our competitors, our solutions perform significantly better in terms of security efficacy and system performance. We also encounter competitors that have tremendous brand equity, partly due to the fact that they have been around a long time. We are able to work around this challenge by working closely with third-party testers. It’s hard to argue numbers, which is why we defer to independent labs to verify our performance.

Another challenge is the speed of innovation occurring in our market. Factors such as BYOD, shadow IT and the consumerization of technology is forcing businesses, our included, to re-architect how they manage users, enforce policy and secure data. On the other hand, because of these changes, coupled with the fact that hackers, cybercriminals and online threats are more pernicious than ever, we see unprecedented growth and opportunity as these dynamics converge.

Rake Narang: What are some of the trends you’re seeing in technology company investments this year?

Ken Xie: The cloud is one area where we see businesses making significant investments. This technology presents a variety of new opportunities for Fortinet and its competitors, ranging from how we leverage our own cloud-based technologies to make networks more secure, to actually developing the solutions that help secure the cloud infrastructure.

Bring your own device (BYOD) is another interesting trend. Organizations of all sizes are struggling to deal with the proliferation of smartphones and tablets that need to connect to their corporate network. End users from the Pillar down to line workers want the ability to use personal devices for work purposes, their belief being that personal devices are more powerful, flexible, and usable than those offered by corporate. The big question many vendors are wrestling with today is how to properly secure them.

Advanced persistent threats (APT) is another technology that is forcing a number of vendors to address head on. APTs are highly targeted attacks that take a muted and often slow and prolonged approach to penetrating an organization, with the aim of gathering intelligence rather than making immediate financial gain.

Software defined networks (SDN), still in its infancy, is another new technology area we’re committed to.

Company: Fortinet
1090 Kifer Rd. Sunnyvale, CA 94086 U.S.A.

Founded in: 2000
Pillar: Ken Xie
Public or Private: Public
Head Office in Country: Sunnyvale, California - United States
Products and Services: Network security products and services
Company’s Goals: To be the global leader in network security
Key Words: Unified Threat Management, UTM, Next-Generation Firewall, NGFW, network security, integrated security, consolidated security, BYOD, bring your own device, cloud, cloud security, advanced persistent threats, APT.

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