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Go Phish: Paul Balkwell, VP – International Sales, ZIX

Go Phish: Paul Balkwell, VP – International Sales, ZIX

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We ‘Go Phish’ with VP – International Sales at ZIX, Paul Balkwell, who tells us how he likes to relax and unwind outside of the office.

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement in the cybersecurity industry?

I’ve been unbelievably lucky to have attracted incredible talent and built fantastic teams that have had huge success penetrating new markets across EMEA and APAC. Taking great technology, understanding and respecting localisation and cultural challenges to become successful in multiple geographies is hugely rewarding. Hard work, lots of travel but loads of fun. Presently at AppRiver|ZIX, we are experiencing incredible growth penetrating the EMEA markets. We are building great teams to deliver the AppRiver|ZIX ‘best of breed’ cybersecurity, productivity and data compliance through our Secure Cloud Platform. 

What first made you think of a career in cybersecurity?

I fell into technology in my early 20s which led to a career in cybersecurity. Working for some great organisations and building an IT Managed Services practice there is a common theme with them all, whether building LAN and WAN networks or the present day push to the cloud, they all have their vulnerabilities and need securing. What a great space to be in, always evolving, fast-paced and never a dull moment.     

What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?

It’s important to attract the right talent and its often advantageous to have them from differing backgrounds. Equality and diversity should always be supported. Recognising individual and team potential and supporting them to meet it as well as keeping them happy. In my current role, it’s about building an agile team to scale at pace. I’m also very much hands-on which I enjoy. I’m an advocate of OKRs ‘Objectives and Key Results’. It is a collaborative goal-setting tool used by organisations, teams and individuals to set challenging, ambitious goals with measurable results. OKRs are how we track progress, create alignment and encourage engagement around measurable goals. Additionally, I believe that it is equally important to be an organisation that attracts talent. It’s a hugely competitive marketplace.

What do you think is the current hot cybersecurity talking point?

With the huge shift to homeworking, there has been an upward trend in Cybersecurity Awareness Training, Compliance and Privacy integration. This is unarguably a more important topic now, as the way we work in the cloud has more impact than ever and is fraught with security and compliance challenges.

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?

I try to be as active as possible by cycling or swimming. No one can get hold of you when you’re underwater. I also like to unwind with family and friends with great food and a nice glass of wine… or two! It’s challenging to switch off though I try to discipline myself to spend only an hour each day over weekends to look at emails and work-related activities, though it can be tough to stick to. Stress can come in multiple forms, though having a truly caring management team that recognises these challenges and are actively there to support their employees is really important. We have a phenomenal caring culture here at AppRiver|ZIX.

If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?

I can think of a few, good and bad. I try to learn by the decisions I’ve made.

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in the cybersecurity industry?

With the current world challenges around the COVID-19 pandemic, and the huge push to the cloud, we are seeing large investments in securing remote workforces. Due to the impact of COVID-19, we have already seen how vulnerable people are to attacks and an increase in malicious malware and other opportunistic scams, the threat environment is evolving to match the current situation and organisations are investing more than ever to keep their employees and organisation secure.

Are there any differences in the way cybersecurity challenges need to be tackled in the different regions?

There is much common ground to start building trust with partners in different regions, yet there are differences and hurdles for each. Data residency and compliance, trust and expectations vary by region. A good example would be the introduction of GDRP. With that, questions about data residency, access and compliance have become more important. The challenge is to meet client needs and expectations while maintaining the cybersecurity requirements, keeping users safe and educated in a changing security landscape. Beyond localisation and a presence in a country, understanding different cultures and how they want to engage and be supported is also important.   

What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?

The biggest is the change in the last three months with lockdown and homeworking. Before this period, I spent lots of time travelling, attending events and actively engaging with our partners. We have had to adjust, but this new way of working has really pushed me into spending time on video calls and attending virtual events. The environment that I foster with the team to bounce ideas around and work collaboratively had to be re-focused and different business strategies have been created to effectively and efficiently work through this period. Is this the new norm?

What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain a C-level position in the security industry?

There is lots of good advice but choosing the right organisations to work for that genuinely invest in their employees is important. Not all companies offer this. I’ve been fortunate to have had some great coaches that have believed in me and helped me develop and succeed. Never give up, surround yourself with good people and enjoy the journey!

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