GitGuardian CEO Eric Fourrier says he got into cybersecurity ‘on the fly’.
Here’s where that’s taken him since.
How did you get interested in cybersecurity?
It just really happened on the fly. I started my career as a machine learning engineer or data scientist, whatever title you prefer. I was supposed to implement AI into products and was working with other data scientists. I saw a lot of bad practices from data scientists; bad stuff in terms of coding style and also coding security. And I was pushed to thinking “okay, how can I help my fellow data scientists and software engineers write more secure code?”
GitGuardian started as a side project just to see how I could use the largest publicly available training database for code, which is GitHub, to try to find vulnerabilities in code. I started with scanning for secrets and it went from there.
What has been your favorite challenge of growing a startup?
I will say learning to scale, which for me was also learning to help people learn. As you scale with a lot of people, you still need to help them ramp up, teach them how the company works, our values, how our product works, how we sell our product, our marketing message and really try to scale the learning experience. As we’ve grown, I’ve gotten further from the process, but still, my favorite part is helping people to learn and get better.
How has your role changed in the growth from 20 to 120 employees?
Early, as co-founder and CTO, the C in the title doesn’t mean much. You’re pushing code, you’re the product person, you’re the sales engineer, you’re doing design, a lot of individual contributor work.
I loved writing code and there’s a point in the journey where, as a technical leader, you stop writing code. That took me a few years. It is a tough experience, and many CTOs never succeed at stepping away from that. The farther removed they get from the day-to-day of the engineering teams, the more they can get out of sync with the teams’ coding standards and practices. Luckily for my technical teams, I recognized that and stepped back.
I got more involved with sales and marketing, which I honestly believe helped make me a better leader in understanding how our technical decisions impact customers. But as I had to spend more time on defining and driving the vision, focusing on growth and execution at scale, I had to trust in my VPs and other leaders and be able to delegate to them.
What is the biggest security challenge you believe the C-suite needs to keep their eye on, in the next few years?
Cyber threats are growing, but a lot of leaders still see security as a cost center, like a tax. Customers, especially with all the recent software supply chain attacks, just want to work with vendors that are secure. I really believe in the future; every company will have a kind of security score and people will consider it seriously before they do business with you.
The challenge is to switch from a mindset where security is seen, as I said, as a source of cost and maybe as an insurance policy to it being a selling point and key differentiator. It’s really a change of mindset.
You encourage the use of AI tools by your employees. What do you think is the most important thing corporate leadership should keep in mind about the adoption of AI in their company?
It’s not only giving employees the tools. Anybody can use ChatGPT. What we miss is training employees how to use the tools to improve their productivity. It’s not easy, to be honest, because the leaders need to believe in the AI revolution, then learn to use it themselves before being able to really make sure that they can spread it to the rest of the company.
Then you have to identify champions. It’s not just about creating an internal document. You need to have champions of the technology to evangelize and help train people in it internally: docs, videos, lunch and learn sessions. Get employees actively engaging with the technology and help them learn best practices.
Your headquarters are in Paris, what is one distinctly Parisian thing a visitor to your city should make sure they try?
For me, and it’s pretty personal but it also ties into my views about culture: the French lunch break. Go with some of your co-workers and just have a great lunch at a bistro, enjoy a good moment, eat some great food together, get to know each other, exchange ideas, debate and enjoy.Click below to share this article